What will be the deciding factor on keeping Aiken County classrooms closed?

Published: Aug. 27, 2020 at 5:25 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Districts have worked to create back-to-school safety plans and now the time is here.

But with so much uncertainty, many people are wondering who decides to keep schools open or close the doors if COVID-19 creeps through the halls.

“As school starts, it’s going to become very important to get that current data and see what’s going on out there,” said Dr. Bert Postell, Aiken County Public Schools back-to-school advisory committee chair.

Aiken County students head back to school on Monday, and a newly formed back-to-school committee of 13 will be looking out for them.

“The purpose is to make a recommendation to the superintendent on our operations,” Postell said. “And so, some of the typical recommendations we can make is maintain current operations, which is whatever current state we’re in. We can recommend more restrictive operations.”

The committee will monitor data from the state, the county and the American Association of Pediatrics to make decisions.

“That data is important because it’s specifically focused on children,” Postell said. “And that tells us how much this is impacting children and it talks about hospitalization rates and mortality rates infection rates among children.”

But committee members won’t just judge by case numbers.

“The latest trend in the state data has shown fewer cases. But the positivity isn’t changing quite as fast. So, instead of saying a certain number of occasions, we want to look at the positivity rate. The trend over time,” Postell said.

So, at what point could Aiken County return to full traditional instruction?

“What we kind of want to see is that all of those are trending low. And so, if we’re low we know we’re moving in the right direction and it’s okay to start, maybe, considering the plans to reopen,” Postell explained.

Of course, those decisions won’t be easy.

“Everyone’s a little nervous about going back to school. There’s a lot of opinions on it and we want to do the best we can to do it in the safest way possible,” Postell said.

The committee will meet weekly throughout the school year to monitor and make decisions as the virus continues to take its toll.

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