Horry County Schools returning to 5-day, face-to-face classes, but masks won’t disappear entirely

Grand Strand

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify that masks will be recommended not required.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – Horry County Schools will return to a five-day schedule with face-to-face learning when classes resume in the fall, but the district will continue to recommend that some students and employees continue to wear masks, according to a plan released Tuesday night by school leaders.

Additional health protocols established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control will also be in place for the safety of students and school employees, the district said. Those protocols include:

  • limiting visitors and activities for non‐essential purposes
  • providing sanitizing stations throughout buildings
  • providing opportunities for and promote frequent hand‐washing and the use of hand sanitizer
  • utilizing guidelines to minimize the number of students being sent to office areas and health room/nurse’s offices
  • encouraging schools to monitor student arrival and dismissal to discourage congregating in groups
  • encouraging schools to incorporate a combination of face‐to‐face and virtual events to reduce the number of large gatherings in schools, such as parent/family meetings, assemblies, etc.
  • following all CDC and SCDHEC guidelines for masks and social distancing
  • encouraging the use of technology conferencing for district and school staff meetings
  • monitoring the spread of viruses or other contagious diseases, such as but not limited to, influenza  and COVID‐19

“When you have something like CCMF going on and you have thousands upon thousands of people in a tight space but I can’t go into a gymnasium to watch my kid sing a Christmas carol. It’s really upsetting,” said Stephanie Roberts, a parent of HCS students.

In addition, it will be recommended that all students and employees who have not been vaccinated wear a mask based on CDC and DHEC guidelines, and individual schools will provide information on how to wear them correctly. Opt-out forms for face coverings from DHEC and the district will be made available to parents and school employees.

The plan also establishes social-distancing rules that include extended and/or staggered meal times. Students will also be assigned to “cohorts” in case health conditions warrant a return to hybrid or distance- learning models.

The district and/or its schools will also:

  • provide adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene and use age-appropriate activities that encourage sound personal hygiene and respiratory etiquette
  • disinfect high-touch areas with an EPA-approved germicide throughout the district each day
  • provide a COVID-19 dashboard, as necessary, for the 2021‐22 school year
  • provide guidance on screening protocols for the daily pre‐screening process, a process all parties should complete before entering the campus/building.
  • continue to provide current health information to staff, students and families about signs and symptoms of COVID‐19, when they should stay home, and when they can  return to school
  • continue to follow the 2020‐21 plan for assisting students and staff who exhibit COVID‐19 symptoms during the school day 
  • establish a dedicated space for symptomatic individuals that will not be used for other purposes (students who display COVID‐19 symptoms or who have received a SCDHEC confirmed positive COVID‐19  test result will be asked to quarantine for the SCDHEC recommended period of time) 
  • continue efforts to provide voluntary diagnostic and screening for COVID-19
  • continue a partnership with Conway Medical Center to offer vaccinations to all employees
  • provide professional development for those who teach courses requiring an end‐of‐course assessment
  • support academically at‐risk students who have demonstrated learning loss as a result of the pandemic
  • strive to increase the number of students who are deemed college‐ or career‐ready and to increase the number of on‐time graduates
  • continue to develop and implement strategies to improve state report card measures
  • provide opportunities for family engagement through events such as literacy nights, book fairs, family nights, open houses, musical performances, sports events and  parent‐conference days/nights
  • collaborate with schools and parents, guardians, and adult students to provide a  free, appropriate public education consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those individuals providing education and related services to these students. 
  • prioritize the scheduling of ESOL services for English learners
  • use existing screening tools used for the identification of gifted and talented students
  • continue to follow the South Carolina Uniform Grading Policy and established Horry County Schools grading protocols
  • provide professional development and resources for school guidance and RBHS counselors

A full version of the district’s plan is available at www.horrycountyschools.net.

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