Making the Grade: Comparing school reopening plans across Southeast hot spot states

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW)- As school districts across South Carolina are working on their reopening plans, the palmetto state sees thousands of new coronavirus cases. News13 takes a look at how South Carolina’s school reopening plans stack up to other states across the southeast.

Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are all designated as red zones by the White House coronavirus task force.

In the palmetto state, hundreds of teachers drove in a motorcade to the Governor’s mansion voicing their displeasure with his wishes.

Supporters cite child abuse and academic achievement gaps as reasons behind needing schools to reopen. The National Education Association also wants schools to reopen, but safely.

“Look at the infection rates and if they are on the increase that is an indicator that schools are not ready to reopen,” said Becky Pringle, Vice President of the National Education Association.

The Accelerate Ed task force created standards based on a low, medium, or high spread of the virus to determine if districts could hold in-person classes.

“They came up with this wonderful plan and now it’s even a part of McMaster’s plan. That was a plan I’m pretty sure we all agreed with, but I guess he didnt like it,” said Kendra Pennington, Horry County Representative SC for Ed.

State Superintendent Molly Spearman made it clear she will not limit reopening plans to five day a week in-person learning.

Meanwhile, Gov. McMaster said, “I ask our Superintendent Molly Spearman not to approve any district plan that doesn’t give parents the choice to send their children to classroom face to face instruction.”

As Florida emerges as a new epicenter of the virus, its governor Ron Desantis like Governor McMaster is calling for in-person learning with a virtual option for parents. “If parents think that distance learning is the way to go, if they’re not comfortable with face to face environment for their kids then I think they have that right,” said Gov. Ron Desantis, (R) Florida.

Up the coast in Georgia, its State Education Superintendent Richard Woods is allowing districts to chart their own course. In a statement, he said most districts are planning an in-person start to their school year offering combinations of virtual, hybrid, or full in-person instruction.
Some districts with high COVID-19 cases will start with full online learning.

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper is allowing schools to operate in-person with social distancing or remote learning only. “We also recognize our teachers need to be safe and our students need to be safe,” said Gov. Cooper, (D) North Carolina.

This, while the CDC greenlighted school openings last week stressing the importance of in person instruction with social distancing and other safety recommendations.

The things like PPE needed to help slow the spread come with a price tag. The National Education Association said federal funding is needed.

“For those of who are in elected and appointed positions of power and authority, they need to demonstrate that they truly care about our kids,” said Pringle.

Florida data shows 31,150 kids under the age of 18 have been infected with the virus.
Georgia reports 14,295 coronavirus cases of school-aged children. North Carolina reports 13,084 and South Carolina reporting 12,615 cases ages 20 and under.

“The same consideration that the Republican National Convention used in canceling their convention in Florida should be used to determine if schools can reopen safely,” said Pringle.

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