School leaders or parents: Who should decide how students return to school?

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 6:26 PM EDT
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AIKEN, SC. (WRDW/WAGT) - There’s been a lot of reaction from Aiken County parents after school leaders laid out a plan for students to return to class, and there are a lot of possible directions it could go.

Here's the graphic that shows the proposal discussed in the meeting last night:

Aiken County school leaders have proposed a phased plan for welcoming students back in the fall.
Aiken County school leaders have proposed a phased plan for welcoming students back in the fall.((Source: Aiken County Board of Education))

Phase One and Two would require kids to be split up in different groups and only go into school when it’s their group’s day.

In Phase Three and Four, everyone goes back to school. The main difference is Phase Three, second graders through 12th graders would not be in class on Wednesday, so the school could be cleaned.

We asked parents what they thought about this plan.

“I caution everyone to not make any plans based on the draft we’re going to see tonight/ Don’t make any deposits on child care or vacation or something like that because it’s just a draft.”

This is what school leaders said to let parents know not to get too ahead of themselves with this proposal. But despite the call for caution, Aiken County parents grew concerned after Tuesday’s reopening recommendations.

Some say school should be virtual, while others argued for the return to traditional learning. Many parents simply just want to make the individual choice for their families.

Parents will be able to chose between in-person (whichever “phase” the district is in) or virtual.

“Taking the decision out of the parents’ hand, I don’t believe is the right decision,” said Amanda Muchler, a parent. “I don’t think so. I crave normalcy. I’m ready to get back to normal myself. My children are ready for normal, but their health has to come first.”

Muchler has three students, each feeling differently about returning, which is all the more reason she wants a variety of options.

The board will vote on a plan, describing it in phases. The higher the COVID-19 risk, the fewer classes at school.

Phase One—in-person class once per week.

Phase Two—classes twice a week for 2nd through 12th grade. And three times for younger kids.

Phase Three—most students are in class for four days a week. Except first grade and under—they’d go every day.

Phase Four—if the virus risk is deemed its lowest, all students in class Monday through Friday.

“So, my junior is super concerned about this year, this is big year for her. A big year colleges look out and she doesn’t believe she can successfully pass this year without the in-person learning,” Muchler said.

Even so, this mom says she’s not sold on the idea that kids will properly social distance and wear masks.

“As an essential worker, I’m out there every day and I see people who don’t believe it’s real. Don’t believe they can get it,” Muchler said.

Supporters, however, point to the benefits of returning -- like mental health, improving the learning gaps, better teacher and student communication.

The board explains that the district does choose to resume traditional learning, the necessary sanitation and social distancing measures will be in classrooms, cafeterias, and during extracurricular activities.

“But the decision should absolutely be in the parent’s hands. There’s too many risks,” Muchler said.

If you’re a concerned parent, the district wants to hear from you. The board will vote on a plan Tuesday at 6 p.m. But there will an in-person public comment period before that vote.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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