Horry County Schools superintendent ‘optimistic’ for hybrid classes as COVID-19 rate declines

Making The Grade

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Schools in Horry and Marion counties would now be recommended to have a mix of in-person and online classes due to declining COVID-19 infection rates.

That’s according to data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) released on Monday. It says there is “medium” coronavirus activity in both counties and guidelines from the state’s AccelerateED task force would allow for a hybrid model.

Monday was supposed to be the first day of class for Horry County Schools (HCS). The start was pushed back three weeks, with HCS board chair Ken Richardson saying it would buy the district time for infection rates to go down.

If the current decrease continues, that move may allow some kids to start the year back in the classroom.

“I’m optimistic and I hope that the positive trend continues,” said HCS superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey.

For the first time since March, there will be some children in HCS classrooms this week. The district says 2,001 elementary school students and 580 middle school students are signed up for LEAP days.

Those are five days of classes, which start Thursday, to help kids learn what they may have missed during virtual learning before the year officially begins on Sept. 8.

“We’re making connections with our students, as far as that social and emotional learning is concerned,” Dr. Maxey said. “This is an experience that has been stressful on everyone involved, but especially our students.”

HCS also says 13,337 students are signed up for the district’s virtual academy for the fall semester. That’s about 30% of the total student population. That includes 5,900 elementary school students, 3,778 middle school students and 3,699 high school students.

The district will spend the next three weeks making sure those students have online access and are put in the right classes.

“People are working diligently to make sure that we get everything in place so that our students will be able to start where they need to be,” said Boone Myrick, who’s the chief academic officer for HCS.

There also needs to be teachers to run those online classes, as Myrick says 260 district teachers and more than 100 from outside HCS have applied to be in charge of virtual lessons.

“That does affect the number of teachers, so we have to make sure that we have a balance, so we have enough teachers for the virtual and the brick-and-mortar,” she said.

Many fall sports are staying in phase 1.5 like football, which won’t have full practices until the first day of school.

“They’re still in pods of 16: 15 athletes and one coach,” said Velna Allen, who’s the chief officer of student services for HCS.

Monday’s DHEC disease activity report doesn’t necessarily mean HCS will use a hybrid model of classes just yet, as the district will use the Aug. 31 report to decide how classes will begin.

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