SC school districts resuming, expanding in-person learning

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FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Several school districts in our area are planning to or have already resumed in-person learning.

The changes in format come after widespread rollbacks to in-person learning during the post-holiday COVID surge.

Marlboro County School District is resuming its hybrid model Monday after a virtual period.

“It is so important to get them back into school for the learning aspect, the academic, for the social, for the emotional aspect for the children,” Wallace Elementary Middle co-principal Ashley Taylor said.

The school is making sure teachers were stocked up with cleaning supplies this week. Students will start attending school in person two days a week Monday if they opted for the in-person option. The district uses many precautions like plexiglass, sanitizer, masks and divided hallways to keep staff and students safe.

“We are looking forward to our students returning back into the building,” co-principal Mahilda Douglas said.

Florence One and Darlington County School District both started their in-person formats Monday. Horry County Schools is preparing to open its elementary schools up to 5 days of in-person learning Feb. 8 after getting plexiglass in.

“We’ve gone well above and beyond and I think that’s what’s been our success and we need to get back to showing people we can be a safe environment,” F1S superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley said. “We are not the spreaders people are indicating they are.”

A recent study out of North Carolina found ‘extremely limited’ secondary COVID spread in schools that had measures like masking and distancing.

“Transmission is low in the setting of having the three W’s, following the mitigation strategies,” Dr. Kanecia Zimmerman of Duke Clinical Research Institute said.

The study found 32 cases of secondary transmission in schools among roughly 90,000 students and staff over nine weeks. The study found 773 lab-confirmed infections from the community.

Still, many teachers remain concerned.

“A lot of school boards met this week and they have set a date for when they’re going to get the five day face-to-face return,” president of the South Carolina Education Association Sherry East said. “And it has caused a lot of anxiety- a lot of calls on my end—you know, ‘we’re going back face to face I haven’t been vaccinated yet what should I do?'”

East said it’s critical that a clear plan be released detailing how and when teachers will be vaccinated. Teachers are listed under Phase 1b in South Carolina. She added that many teachers are frustrated.

“Teachers are done,” she said plainly. “Like they’re just, it’s too much and they’ve decided they want out. The other part is fear. Fear they’re going to catch COVID and die.”

In a statement, SC for Ed told News13, “We steadfastly remain supportive of districts that utilize virtual instruction while percent positive is considered high by DHEC standards. We consider this the only safe platform at this time.”

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