Parents react as Horry County Schools remains in hybrid learning while COVID-19 cases rise in area

Grand Strand

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – Despite rising coronavirus cases in Horry County, public schools won’t move to a completely virtual class model next week.

Horry County Schools (HCS) will remain in its hybrid model of two days of in-person classes per week because the district says it has a low number of cases in schools. On Thursday, data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says Horry County has a high level of COVID-19 activity. The state’s AccelerateED task force guidelines recommend only virtual classes in counties with a high coronavirus spread.

Heather Hare, who has young twins at Carolina Forest Elementary School, says the first two months of this year have been better than when HCS moved to total virtual learning at the start of the pandemic in March.

“It’s been better than I was expecting,” said Hare. “The work that they’re getting, I feel like, is actually helping a bit.”

Hare also says school still hasn’t been the same for her kids. “It’s definitely taken a toll on their mental health,” she said. “They can’t hug their friends. They have to stay away from their friends. They’re constantly wearing a mask.”

The state Department of Education encouraged HCS to keep the hybrid model. A spokesperson says a school district’s virus prevention strategies outlined by the CDC are just as important as an area’s viral spread.

Those CDC mitigation strategies include consistent mask use, social distancing and contact tracing.

“From what [her twins] come home and told me, it sounds like the schools are very on top of it,” said Hare.

There are other indicators outlined by the CDC, some of which are similar to DHEC’s disease activity data. Horry County is in the category of “highest risk of transmission in schools.”

Horry County has 328.2 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of 17.9% over the last two weeks. DHEC also reported Thursday the county hospital beds were at 94.0% occupancy.

The COVID-19 dashboard on the HCS website said Thursday that there are 36 current coronavirus cases among students and staff in the last week, bringing the district’s “historic” total to 120 cases.

“I am starting to get a little concerned,” Hare said. “I think that some people are getting a little complacent in it because the numbers were dropping.”

Hare says she hopes parents understand how tough it is to keep schools safe. “I think that the county is doing the best they can, the school district is doing the best they can [and] the teachers especially,” she said.

HCS board chair Ken Richardson tells News13 he’s not making any statements until he hears from the superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey at Monday night’s school board meeting.

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