LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - High schoolers in Lexington School District One will be heading back to the classroom four days a week beginning on March 1st.
The students will receive face-to-face instruction Monday through Thursday with Friday remaining an e-learning day. 9th through 12th graders have been in a hybrid model where students attend two days in person since the Fall.
Some parents and teachers said they’re happy with the decision and have been waiting for this for months, while others say they feel like safety has taken a backseat and they are upset by the decision.
“I don’t think it’s safe,” River Bluff High School parent Jimmy Carter said.
The ability to social distance is a central concern for parents and teachers as they get ready for reopening.
“My daughter has up to 30 people in her class, and you’re telling me that plexiglass and social distancing three to six feet apart is feasible? I don’t believe that it is,” Carter said. “Then when you excuse (the students) from class, you are going to put eight hundred to nine hundred people in hallways. (The hallways) are 10 feet wide, but that’s not going to be enough.”
One teacher said she feels that teacher’s safety isn’t a priority. She said that students are able to stay about 4 feet apart right now, but when her class size doubles to nearly 30 students social distancing won’t be possible.
“There has been a petition that students have started on change.org to not be in the classroom 4 days a week, and they’re very unhappy about the situation,” River Bluff High School parent Susan Brown said. “(Her daughter) has also mentioned that some of the teachers are rather unhappy because they are feeling unsafe.”
Some parents say their students are thriving in the hybrid model.
“It’s gone very smoothly, so my reaction was, why change it?” Brown said. “It’s already going into March; we’re almost done with the school year.”
Carter said he worries that the four-day-a-week model will cause more students to be out on quarantine.
“You now put a child back into school and then you take them right back out because of quarantine and shift them over, what’s more of the disruption?” Carter said.
However, other parents say they’re happy with the shift.
“We’re very excited,” parent of 4 Lexington School District One Seniors Rose Taylor said. “We’ve been waiting for this for several months now.”
Many teachers, parents, and students expressed excitement and support for the decision, saying that while everyone was doing the best they could in the virtual model, in-person learning is the ideal way to learn.
“I think it will be nice to be back with everyone and to see some people that I wouldn’t normally see,” River Bluff High School Senior Hannah Smith said.
The learning and social aspect of getting back to the classroom is something parents and teachers said they’re also excited about.
“I’m excited,” Jodie Smith, Hannah’s mother, said. “It’s her senior year, and I want her to have as many experiences as she can.”
“They’re not learning as much as they should be learning and as they would if they were four days a week,” Ashley Wages, a White Knoll High School parent, remarked on the hybrid learning.
Mike Burgess, the lead teacher for the Center for Law and Global Policy Development at River Bluff High School, said the four-day-a-week model will allow teachers to start catching students up.
“We’re not going to close the gap that has been created since March 15th last year, but we are at least going to stop that bleeding in terms of that gap of knowledge,” Burgess said.
Burgess said that he feels like it’s safe to go back with the mitigation measures the district has in place.
“I know we have some teachers that are upset and might retire, but at the end of the day the most important person in this whole matter is our students, and this is what’s best for students,” Burgess said.
Lexington One Superintendent Dr. Greg Little said the data pointed towards reopening.
“The growing body of research that says it’s safe to come back, the local numbers that are continuing to trend in the right direction, and the fact we feel like we can put high levels of safety protocols in place; you combine all that together and we think it’s going to be a great value add to have our students to be back in the building.”
Little said on January 15th, the district had 129 student cases, and that as of Friday that number had dropped to 45.
“Now is it going to be 45 every day? Maybe not, but you do see a nice trend of our numbers declining,” Little said.
Dr. Little said their safety measures and mitigation measures make him confident that they can keep their students safe while returning 4 days a week in person. These measures include mask-wearing, plexiglass between desks, hand sanitizing, and social distancing.
Lexington One Superintendent Dr. Greg Little said that Fridays will remain an e-learning day for K-12th graders in order to allow for cleaning and sanitizing.