Darlington County students to return to classroom next week

Pee Dee

DARLINGTON COUNTY, SC (WBTW) — The Darlington County School District Board of Education voted 6-1 Monday to begin in-person learning next week.

Beginning Sept. 21, K-5 students will have five days of in-person learning. Starting the same day, students in grades 6-12 will begin a hybrid model using an ‘A/B’ schedule.

This decision does not impact the students who are enrolled in Darlington’s Virtual Academy, who will remain online.

“On one hand, we’re looking at the safety and health of everybody that’s involved,” district superintendent Dr. Tim Newman, discussing the complexity of the issue. “On the other hand we’re looking at students’ learning loss and what are we willing to be able to deal with to educate our students.”

Students in self-contained, special education classes of all grades will also go in five days a week.

Middle and high school students will be split into two groups- ‘A’ and ‘B.’ Under the plan, ‘A’ students will be in the classroom Monday and Wednesday, while ‘B’ students will head in Tuesday and Thursday.

The remaining time in the week will be elearning days. That will help these schools to allow for proper social distancing. The district says it is confident social distancing can be observed at the elementary schools.

“We’re all excited to have our kids coming back to the classroom,” Board chairman Warren Jeffords said. “We feel like.. they learn better by being in the classroom face-to-face. We’ve done a lot of work on this.

Chariman Jeffords added he’s heard from many community members recently about this topic.

“They want to be back in school,” he said. “They feel like they’re kids need to be there. They’re falling behind. And I agree with them. We need to have them there. We need them face-to-face with our teachers.”

Although DHEC still pegs Darlington County as having ‘high’ recent disease activity, Dr. Newman said numbers are still on the decline. He also discussed the importance for many students and families of having learning happen in the classroom.

Council member Charles Govan was the one to vote against the recommendation. He expressed some concerns with returning in-person.

“I have a real concern about the aging population we have of employees,” Govan said. “I’m not too sure I really want to put these people’s lives at stake.”

We asked Dr. Newman to address concerns among teachers.

“We absolutely want them to feel safe and comfortable in our buildings, doing the job they always wanted to do, which is to teach kids,” Dr. Newman said. “We will continue to listen to them as they give us suggestions on how we can continue to make them feel safe.”

The district has numerous safety protocols in place.

Students and staff will be required to wear masks. High touch areas will be sanitized everyday. Desks will be spaced out and social distancing will be observed. There are many other new procedures in place.

Dr. Newman’s approved recommendation also included after school activities.

The plan now is to have at least a month of the hybrid model for middle and high school students. The district however will continue to analyze data as it looks for opportunities to bring students five days a week, something the board wants to do when safe.

Count on News13 for updates.

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