Horry County Schools chair wants to delay start of school to Sept. 8

Grand Strand

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — The head of the Horry County Schools (HCS) board says he wants to delay the start of the school year by three weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a Facebook Live video on his page Thursday evening, board chair Ken Richardson said he will ask the HCS board to push back the first day of school from Aug. 17 to Sept. 8, which is the day after Labor Day. According to Richardson, state law says parents must be notified at least 20 days in advance of when school will start.

Richardson says his goal is to have all kids in classrooms with a teacher five days a week, but emphasized it needs to be done safely.

“I need this extra time to give us a chance to go over the data,” he said.

According to numbers from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) this week, Horry and 38 other counties would only be recommended for “full distance learning” by AccelerateED’s guidelines. The metrics used say Horry County has the state’s second-highest COVID-19 incidence rate (772.3 cases per 100,000 people over two weeks) and fifth-highest positive test rate (24.3%).

South Carolina’s education superintendent Molly Spearman spoke to a state Senate subcommittee Wednesday, saying that deciding how to reopen schools is her “greatest dilemma” in more than four decades in education.

“There’s not a school board chair in the state of South Carolina that isn’t nervous,” Richardson said.

Richardson also says since the pandemic began, HCS employees have never worked this hard, even after facing hurricanes.

“In the last three school years, we haven’t had a normal year,” he said.

Richardson also says no HCS teachers or students have died from COVID-19.

Delaying the start of classes could also improve virtual learning if it’s needed.

“If it looks like we are going to have to go to distance learning, and not traditional, it gets me three extra weeks to work with our teachers for teacher development,” said Richardson.

The school board chair also says he won’t send any teachers or students back unless it’s the safest environment possible.

“I promise the parents right now, when I send the kids back to school, I’m going to be there with them,” said Richardson. “The first month, I’m going to be at a school every day, all day long, from bell to bell.”

Richardson said reopening schools shouldn’t be political, referencing President Donald Trump’s threat of cutting federal aid to school districts that don’t reopen.

“[Trump] and I want the same thing, but it needs to be done safely,” Richardson said.

At the end of the Facebook Live, Richardson was asked if there would be high school football and other sports this fall. He said that decision is not up to him, but up to officials in Columbia like those with the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL).

The HCS board must vote on any changes to the academic calendar and a special called meeting is scheduled to approve a plan for the school year. The meeting will take place Monday at 6 p.m. Count on News13 for updates.

Watch the full Facebook Live Q&A session below:

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