No decision yet on Horry County Schools operation plan for next week

Making The Grade

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – Horry County’s school board has not decided what kind of classes students will go to next week.

Horry County Schools (HCS) returned from winter break on Jan. 4 with online-only classes due to an expected rise in coronavirus cases. HCS officials said it was a safety precaution because the district would not be able to track and record COVID-19 case data as accurately during the vacation.

The board said it’s still reviewing data about how the virus spread during winter break, including students and teachers who recently tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Some of our employees and some of our students did experience COVID-19 positive test results over the holiday,” said Velna Allen, chief officer of student services. “They are now back and ready to attend school or go back to work, but we were not notified at that time.”

HCS announced at Monday night’s school board meeting that a final decision on next week’s classes will be made Wednesday. The state requires districts to give parents five-days notice before changing instruction models. The latest data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control says the disease activity level is high in every single county in the state.

School board chair Ken Richardson says HCS has to also balance staffing issues due to quarantines.

“We’ve got more of a people problem than we do a COVID problem,” Richardson said. “That’s some of the stuff that we’re going to have to work on fixing.”

HCS also says plexiglass barrier installation is completed in 19 out of its 28 elementary schools. The last nine buildings are expected to be finished by next Monday.

Richardson says that could mean a faster return to five days of classes for younger kids.

“There’s a very good possibility that an elementary school could start back before a middle or a high school starts back because we have the safety measures in place,” he said.

HCS is also preparing for COVID-19’s impact on next school year by improving the virtual academy.

“We would need a full-time staff at all grade levels dedicated to hcs k-12 virtual [learning],” said Lee James, who’s Conway High School’s principal. “We would also need the services of an administrative team.”

More families are also choosing to send students back to physical classrooms when they do reopen. For the second semester, HCS says 3,152 students are switching from the virtual program to “brick-and-mortar” classes, while 893 are going from physical classrooms into the virtual program. In total, 8,156 students are expected to be enrolled in the virtual academy in the second semester.

The district also estimates about 5,200 students will be in the virtual academy next school year.

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