Darlington County School District weighs options for upcoming school year

Pee Dee

DARLINGTON, S.C. (WBTW) — Darlington County School District leaders met Friday for a work session to discuss what the upcoming school year may look like.

“There is no perfect solution to what we’re talking about,” Superintendent Dr. Tim Newman said to the Board of Education near the beginning of the meeting.

He discussed at length the discussions had by the Back to School Committee, which is made up of many different stakeholders in the community.

“Number one, everybody would like to be able to safely return back to school,” Dr. Newman said. “Now, with that said there was also a lot of apprehension about the risk involved with doing that.”

The superintendent said he wanted the district to focus on getting students back to school for face-to-face instruction as the group discussed ways to mitigate the risk.

“And I believe we need to do that based on a five day schedule. And then I also believe we need to be focused on offering a virtual academy,” he said.

Some concern was expressed about staffing the virtual academy, but Newman said there would be staff dedicated to teaching courses online, who would be freed up by the fewer number of students physically in school.

“We have many parents and families who do not have access to WiFi,” board member Charles Govan said, concerned about virtual options.

Board member Wanda Hassler said accountability for teachers and students needs to be emphasized heading into the fall.

“We lost over 200 students in our district. And we have to find those students,” she said plainly.

Another question circled around when the time was right to begin the school year. Board members Jamie Morphis and Leigh Anne Kelley vouched to start up again sooner rather than later.

“We have got to educate kids,” Morphis said. “These people… they’re in society now but it’s funny when it’s time to come back to work I got an excuse and I got a reason.”

There was talk of starting students earlier than originally planned- Aug. 10 over Aug. 17- but that apparently sparked some concern from the back to school committee.

“There is no finish line, right?” Kelley said. “I don’t know that we’ll be in any better a position to make a decision starting in Labor Day versus starting in August. It’s just unknown.”

Dr. Thelma Dawson said teachers could use some extra time to prepare.

Newman also mentioned many safety precautions, from the ability to social distance in classes to wearing masks.

People can’t understand how can we have a classroom full of kids and teach,” he said. “Well, we can, with six feet apart from each of them and with masks.”

No actions were taken during Friday’s work session. However, the board is expected to vote Monday on a proposal from the superintendent on beginning the school year. Count on News13 for updates.

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