Aiken County may revamp back-to-school plans

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 6:23 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Aiken County schools are having to reevaluate the plans they decided on yesterday after an announcement from South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.

During a briefing on July 15, McMaster said schools across South Carolina have to give parents the option to send kids back to school for a full five days a week and talked about how important it is kids are in class.

“We need to take every step in our disposal to get kids back in our classrooms, where they want to be, teachers want to be, district wants them to be. We must do it safely and carefully, but we must do it,” McMaster said.

This is what Aiken County decided on yesterday -- two options:

The first one starts with a hybrid learning model, then transitioning to a full five days a week after monitoring the spread of COVID-19.

They’ll split the students into two groups. One group will have in-person instruction on Monday and Tuesday, while the second group will have in-person instruction on Wednesday and Thursday. Then the other three days of the week, students will work remotely.

The second option is complete virtual learning through Aiken Innovate.

But the governor said there has to be an option for parents to send kids to school at the start of the year, so how will the district respond?

Aiken County says they are focused on safety and giving parents a choice. And with this current level of COVID-19 spread, they think their two options offer the best of both.

It won't be busy hallways, but Aiken County is trying to offer as close to normal learning as they can.

“I really feel that there’s just not going to be a foolproof way to make this happen,” said Tami Eichelberger, an Aiken County parent

Eichelberger has two kids in Aiken County schools and agrees with the governor, saying her kids will go back in-person.

“They lost a lot of valuable learning and instruction by virtual,” she said.

But Aiken County says their Innovate platform will be better. With teachers and students devoted 100 percent online, they will have an organized schedule with some live teaching and some pre-recorded.

For those with no internet, the school district says they will likely offer hotspots or the option to download course materials a week ahead, and they've ordered computers for students without them.

For in-person instruction, students and staff will be asked to wear masks but only where social distancing isn't possible.

And students will help with cleaning off their desks in between classes and there will temperature checks twice a day.

But even parents realize the plan isn't going to be perfect.

“There’s going to be kids that are going to carry the virus and not know it,”

The deadline to register for full virtual learning is Monday, but the school district says they will try to be flexible as the situation changes.

Meanwhile, the Aiken County School District released a statement late Wednesday afternoon after McMaster’s news conference. The district says they’ve heard what McMaster has to say and will re-evaluate their plans during a specially called meeting on July 21.

Still, the school district says their approach is closely aligned with DHEC and CDC guidelines.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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