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S.C. task force poised to unveil plans for reopening schools

Coronavirus and schools
Coronavirus and schools(WRDW)
Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 9:02 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2020 at 12:51 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. - The task force created to determine how South Carolina schools can safely reopen in the fall in a pandemic will make its recommendations public this afternoon.

AccelerateED will present its plans at a 2:30 p.m. news conference from Columbia.

The group, started by South Carolina Education Superintendent Molly Spearman, has met approximately two dozen times since the pandemic began. The group has been working to balance learning and safety when school is back in session.

On Friday morning, AccelerateED finalized their recommendations for the 2020-21 school year. The task force made some tweaks to its draft earlier after receiving hundreds of messages from teachers, parents and associations.

State Superintendent Molly Spearman told the task force, “It’s my responsibility now to take your recommendations and turn them into action working with local school districts, superintendents and their boards.”

The recommendations give school district flexibility when it comes to opening their doors this fall.

If a school district’s area is seeing high spread of COVID-19 in the fall, it could offer full distance learning. If there is low-spread, the school district could stick to a modified traditional model. If the spread is somewhere in between high and low, they could do a hybrid model.

One of the questions discussed Friday during the AccelerateED meeting was what dictates whether an area is seeing low, medium or high spread.

Spearman said she’s working on setting up a meeting with superintendents and state health officials to figure out that threshold.

Steve Nuzum is a teacher in Richland County. He said, "One thing I'm glad they're trying to do is get a better definition on what low, medium, high spread is. The traditional model where everyone goes back to school will not be possible for any large district."

Spearman said they are keeping a close eye on the current spike in COVID-19 cases we are seeing in South Carolina right now. She said in addition to the schools taking safety precautions, the community needs to do their part to make sure students in the Palmetto State get the education they deserve in the fall.

"If you want to go back to school, want to go back to football games to cheer on your team -- you need to be wearing a mask when you're out in public. It's one of the few things we know that is effective and folks just aren't doing it how they should," she said.

Dave Barbeau has a child in elementary school. He said he feels uncertain about which model he prefers. He said he wants what's best for his son - but is also very concerned about the health of others. "I feel like the dynamic nature of this disease and its infectiousness in South Carolina makes it nearly impossible to predict how things are going to be two months from now," he said.

Superintendent Spearman said some of the CARES Act money the state is receiving will be used to help prepare all school districts for virtual learning if it is needed statewide some time this school year.

From reports by WCSC and WIS

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