Aiken County starts to wrap up plans for return to school

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 11:14 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Students, parents, and school districts still face difficult decisions about this fall. The Aiken County School Board meeting wrapped up tonight to talk about re-opening and how officials plan to approach the new year.

After weeks of planning, the Aiken Back-To-School Task Force presented its suggestions for schools.

“Our number one guiding principle was our staff and students -- their safety, their health, emotional and physical health,” said Phyllis Gamble, the leader of the task force.

The task force believes Aiken schools should reopen in different phases based on the status of the virus.

“There are very restrictive phases, where we feel like the dangers outweigh the benefits of students being back in schools,” King Laurence, the Aiken County Schools superintendent, said.

In phase 1, students -- separated into groups -- will only come to class in person once a week.

In phase 2, students in second through 12th grade will go to class, in-person, twice a week. Younger kids will go for three days, due to their need for more in-person time.

Phase 3 would have older students go to class four days a week, and kids under first grade go for five days.

And finally, in phase 4 -- all students return to a normal five-day week schedule.

“We’ve been very careful to ensure that we don’t have teachers teaching in the classroom during the day, and then in the second shift, teaching virtual,” Laurence said.

“They’re learning virtually everywhere, but most importantly, but most importantly that our teacher’s hearts are with them no matter where they are,” Merry Glenne Piccolino, Aiken County Schools director of communications, said.

Now, it’s up to the school board to decide their take on the recommendations. And Gamble remains hopeful.

"Have empathy and stay positive, because together we're going to get through this," Gamble said.

The district wants to remind parents to hold off on making any plans just yet. The suggestions are not final, and if the district does operate under the proposed phases, it’s still unclear which phase the school will be in, come August 17.

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