Florence 1 reopening plan gets praise; some still concerned

Pee Dee

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) — Parents, students and teachers of Florence 1 Schools now have an idea of what the start of their school year is planned to look like.

That’s thanks to the vision district superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley presented Thursday during a virtual board meeting. The presentation outlined his proposal of a cohort-based schedule, where students would alternate between face to face and virtual learning every other day.

Courtesy: Florence 1 Schools

“Even though there is risk in going back to school right now in person, the way that Dr. O’Malley and the district have set up our plan, the risks have been so mitigated that I am very willing to step up and do my part with excitement,” longtime Florence 1 Schools teacher and SC for Ed member Robin Bowman said.

She said the plan is a good compromise.

“We’re not only getting the educational standpoint for school. But we’re also getting for health and for safety for students and for teachers,” she said.

The plan was unanimously endorsed by the board during Thursday’s meeting ahead of its submission at the state level.

It got parent Steven Thayer’s blessing, too.

“You cut classes from 25 to 30 people to 10 to 15- I think it’s very doable,” Thayer said, who’s wife also works at the district. “Especially with little kids. Its hard to get a kindergartner or first grader to not spread germs.”

Some parents still have some reservations about the school year, given recent COVID activity in the Palmetto State.

“Parents who have to work, and I know that they’re going to be giving their kids Motrin, ibuprofen. I just don’t know how you do it safe. So I’m likely going to keep him,” Suzanne La Rochelle said, talking of her son.

She will be able to keep him home, as Florence One is planning a virtual alternative, which is required of all districts to offer.

Governor McMaster pushed districts Wednesday to also offer parents a five day in-person model. Superintendent O’Malley was clear Thursday he did not believe that was the right decision for Florence 1 now.

“I have no reason to say that I will put students five days a week right now, when everything else is telling me that’s not how you start,” he said during Thursday’s presentation. “And if they do not accept it I would ask the board to accept the consequences they offer to us in lieu of doing this plan.”

The South Carolina Department of Education told News13 Friday that a five day offering was encouraged if it could be done safely, but not required to get plans approved.

Here is what an SCDE spokesperson said was required:

To be approved, plans must include:

  1. A virtual option for all students
    • Districts may choose to deliver their own virtual program, take advantage of VirtualSC, suggest enrollment in one of the public charter virtual schools, or contract the service.
    • Districts must ensure that any virtual model includes at least an initial in-person contact with students. Intermittent face-to-face contact with students is also strongly encouraged.
  1. An in-person option for all students
    • Hybrid/blended learning models will be considered an in-person option for students.
    • If a five day a week face-to-face instruction model can be safely offered, districts are encourage to do so; however, it is not required for plan approval.
  1. A timeframe for when districts intend to review operational plans so that implementation of a full face-to-face instruction model can be worked towards as health and safety conditions improve.
  1. Establish how high quality instruction will be provided, regardless of instructional model, and demonstrate how a broad range of student services will be provided. This includes ensuring all federal and state law requirements are met.

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