CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County Schools (HCS) will move to five-day in-person learning for all elementary students beginning Feb. 8.
All middle and high schools will remain in hybrid learning. All schools will remain in hybrid classes next week.
“We’ve lost more children to suicides than we have COVID,” HCS boad chair Ken Richardson said. “It’s time to put them back in school.”
“We have students who are returning from the virtual school to our brick-and-mortar schools — roughly 3,000 of them — and we have students who have chosen to go to the virtual school for second semester,” said Velna Allen, chief officer of student services for HCS.
Students enrolled in the virtual academy for second semester will still stay in it for the rest of the school year. HCS got $5 million through the CARES Act to put in plexiglass barriers, which allow students to be three feet apart in classrooms instead of six, according to DHEC guidelines.
Students will still need to wear masks. Middle and high schools will also have plexiglass installed, but the district won’t wait for every building to be finished like it did with elementary schools.
“We’re going to start in one attendance area and we’ll get it done,” Richardson said. “When we get that attendance area done, we’re putting those kids back in school.”
Some teachers have said they’re concerned the barriers will make it harder for students to learn. One parent at Monday’s school board meeting said he’s worried the plexiglass won’t keep his children safe.
“I will throw myself on fire just to make sure that he doesn’t get burned and it feels like for me and many parents like me, it seems like you guys are pouring gas on that fire at times by some of your decision,” said Justin Yarbrough, a parent of an HCS student.
The district sent the following email out to parents:
During the Horry County Board of Education meeting this evening (January 25, 2021), it was announced that all elementary schools will return to five days a week, face-to-face instruction at our brick-and-morder schools on Monday, Feburary 8, 2021. This two-week notice will allow for a safe transition for our students and staff. Additional information will be shared with staff and parents later this week as we make this transition in our elementary schools.
HCS has been working expeditiously to install plexiglass in classrooms and all elementary schools are now complete. As per SCDHEC recommendations, this will allow student spacing of three feet apart. This additional mitigation effort will allow us to bring more students back into the classroom and increase our face-to-face instruction from 2-days a week to 5-days a week. While the use of plexiglass will reduce social distancing requirements from six to three feet, masks/face coverings will still be required in all areas of the school. We will begin installation at our middle schools next and then move onto our high schools. A date on when 5-days a week, face-to-face instruction will begin at middle and high schools has not yet been determined; however, staff and parents will receive at the minimum a five-day calendar notice of this change.
HCS will continue to review quarantine data, which assists the district in making decisions regarding the operations at brick-and-mortar schools. If a significant number of staff members are quarantined at an individual school, that individual school may be required to utilize distance learning for students until quarantine numbers for staff members decline.
We would like to thank our students and parents for working diligently to do the best you can each day in our present circumstances, and we are grateful for your continued support of HCS.
The district will know Tuesday if St. James Intermediate School will move to five days of in-person learning, but plexiglass installation is finished there, according to district spokesperson Lisa Bourcier.
The district said it will have a better idea of when plexiglass installation will be completed in middle schools at the next board meeting Feb. 8.