Making the grade: Florence County School District 2 preparing for full in-person learning

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PAMPLICO, SC (WBTW)- Florence County School District 2 is one of the few districts in the area opening its doors to students face-to-face, five days a week starting Sept. 8.

Extra safety measures start as soon as the door opens. Every student and staff member will be screened with a thermal infrared thermometer.

If anyone has a fever of 100.4 or higher, or is experiencing COVID symptoms, they will come into the isolation room with a full-time nurse. “This is also our telemedicine room that we are working on with McLeod health, so this is telemed equipment that we have so, with parents’ consent, we are able to connect them with a doctor,” said Superintendent Dr. Neal Vincent.

The district is taking other preventative measures to slow the spread with reminders of safety precautions posted throughout the school.

Social distancing and masks are required. PPE and hand sanitizer provided by the state will be available. Vincent said there will be extra cleaning throughout the day and after school.

Vincent said parents asked for an in-person option, but 40 percent of the district is planning to do virtual learning.

Typically, classrooms held 25 students, and now a classroom will hold about 15, making it easier for each room to have desks six feet apart.

Despite providing every student with a device, Vincent said one major issue the district faces is internet connectivity. “We have areas with no internet at all. Families who do not have internet service, so that’s why another part of opening up face-to-face was if you don’t have internet, how can you do virtual?” said Vincent.

Reopening to full in-person learning isn’t without perceived challenges. “Trying to make sure small children social distance and making sure parents feel comfortable and safe sending them to us,” said Vincent.

News13 got a look inside a Montessori classroom for 4- and 5-year-olds where children do individual work with some group lessons.

“They’re going to be taught how to leave space between themselves. We’re going to be using towels that the children are bringing from home instead of our work rugs. They will use those and take them home to be laundered,” said Ellen Smith, the lead Montessori teacher at Hannah Pamplico Elementary.

Desks will be spread out and only seat one child, but seating won’t be the only thing different this year. “We’re going to have to have different kinds of conversations this year. They’re going to learn what a pandemic is. They’re going to hear coronavirus, but in a friendly way that’s developmentally appropriate for them,” said Smith.

P.E. and recess will be outside and middle-school students will have limited classroom changes. Social distancing markers will be placed on hallway floors.

Smith is one of 78 teachers in the district and said she’s ready to be back in the classroom. “We’re all in this together. We’re all on the same page. It’s different for all of us, but just because it’s different doesn’t mean that it can’t be good and we want this to be a good experience for our children,” said Smith.

An experience the district said it’s taking seriously.

“We’re excited to re-open. We want to make sure we’re doing it safely. We will monitor and adjust as needed,” said Vincent.

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