Aiken County schools reevaluate after McMaster pressures for five day week

Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 6:21 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Most of our districts have school plans hammered out, but right now, Aiken County is re-evaluating after Gov. Henry McMaster said parents should be able to send their kids back to school five days a week

Right now, Aiken County’s plan doesn’t have that option, but News 12 looked into who will have the final say when kids go back to school.

The governor and the state Superintendent Molly Spearman have different ideas on how South Carolina schools should reopen and learn. This leaves school districts torn in the middle.

“We’re heartbroken because what he, in essence, was saying was that we don’t care about the wellbeing of our teachers and students, we’re more concerned about getting the economy going,” Lisa Ellis, founder of SC for Ed, said.

SC for Ed was one of the several educator groups that spoke out against McMaster’s call for schools to reopen for the full five days a week.

About 20 districts have already submitted their plans for approval to the Department of Education. Most plans, originally based on AccelerateSC guidelines, called for schools to re-open for traditional learning when there is a low spread of COVID-19 in the area. And operating under hybrid schedules during a period of medium spread.

“Most districts have moved on that, with those guidelines. And that was the safest way to open. Some even said hands down no we’re going back virtually,” Ellis said.

In Aiken County, the board approved a hybrid schedule with a gradual return to full traditional learning. In light of the governor’s order, they might go back on that plan. But the question is: do they even have to follow it?

The Department of Education has a few things to look at before approving a plan:

  • First, the safety protocols in place given the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
  • Next, the options have to be offered to the parents.
  • Then, if student services meet state and federal standards for education.
  • Lastly, what laws the district will need exemptions from to move forward with the plan.

The governor's plan is a suggestion, but the Department of Education has the last say on plan approval. The department is also not requiring schools to push back the start date to September 8, but it is an option for schools to consider.

In Gov. McMaster’s last news conference, he said schools need to submit plans tomorrow. But Spearman’s office said they just need plans finalized at least 20 days before their start date.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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