“We are relieved”: Parent reacts to Lexington-Richland 5 shifting to virtual learning amid high number of staff absences

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Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 12:06 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2022 at 12:07 AM EST
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IRMO, Sc. – (WIS) Just one day after Lexington-Richland School District 5 issued an urgent call for substitute teachers to fill classrooms amid the Omicron surge, the district is temporarily shifting all students from in-person instruction to virtual learning.

At this point, students are scheduled to resume in-person instruction on Wednesday, January 19.

According to the district, they are experiencing twice as many COVID-19 related absences this week as they did during the Delta variant surge.

District-wide, 196 staff are out as of January 12, either for positive COVID-19 tests, isolation or quarantine. 2,656 students across the district are currently out.

On Thursday, Lexington-Richland 5 reported 117 unfilled classes. This is an increase from 96 on Wednesday.

At the height of the Delta surge, the district averaged 56 unfilled classes per day.

In a statement, Lexington-Richland 5 said in part, “Even with the available substitutes, staff, coordinators, district and school administrators helping, we did not feel comfortable with the number of unfilled absences.”

District Superintendent Dr. Akil Ross said this was a very difficult decision, but that he must ensure that instruction, safety and supervision can be provided for all students.

“At the point that we cannot provide that, we will move to virtual until we can provide adequate instruction, safety and supervision,” he said.

For district parents like Amanda DeQuattro, this is welcome news.

“We are relieved that the district is hearing the parents and hearing the teachers and realizing that there’s something going on,” she said. “There’s anxiety behind sending my daughter to school. She does wear her mask and she is vaccinated so I’m not overly concerned, but I do know that I have a child in my home that is under the age for vaccines so we are just concerned about him.”

DeQuattro said since the start of this school year her daughter has had to quarantine four times due to exposure to the virus in the classroom.

“At one point half of her school was done in quarantine,” she said.

When asked whether the district has confidence that in-person learning can safely resume at all schools next Wednesday, the District said, “School District Five’s plan and goal is to have all students return to in-person learning Wednesday, January 19, 2022.  However, we will assess staffing levels early next week to ensure that the instruction, safety, and supervision needs will be met.”

DeQuattro is skeptical that the staffing issues will be resolved by then.

“I think reevaluating is going to be a good idea,” she said. “I don’t see how it’s plausible that they’re going to be back on Wednesday. You know if everything miraculously just – all of the teachers are able to go and there are no vacancies, then great. But I just don’t see that happening.”

Free meals will be provided at all district school from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. during the days of virtual instruction.

In addition to Lexington-Richland 5, Lexington School District Three announced a temporary shift to e-learning on Thursday for each of its four schools. Lexington Three will be in this virtual posture for the entirety of next week.

Click here for an updated list of Midlands schools that have transitioned to virtual learning.

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