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Opinions divided on Aiken County’s move to 4-day, in-person learning

Published: Oct. 6, 2020 at 11:40 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Starting Monday, the school week will be changing in Aiken County. School district leaders passed a plan Tuesday night to send younger students back to in-person classes four days a week.

“We need to do something other than sit and wait for us to get below 5 percent because that’s not going to happen, I don’t believe, until there’s a vaccine” against coronavirus, said King Laurence, superintendent of Aiken County Public Schools.

In a 7-2 decision, the Aiken County Board of Education voted to send elementary students back to the classroom for four days a week.

“We’ve been worried about their emotional well-being and everything else, not being in school and not having that opportunity for face-to-face instruction, so I believe we’ve found a middle ground. We’ve taken a phased approach,” Laurence said.

As the next part of the phased approach, elementary students will return to the classroom Monday through Thursday, with middle and high schoolers starting Oct. 26.

And on Nov. 4, the plan is to have students in all grade levels back for a full five-day week.

But not everyone is on board with the plan.

“I just thought three business days was a lot to put on the school, and I wanted them to prepare better for it so that our workforce wouldn’t feel so shocked and the children were well-received,” said Cameron Nuessle, District 9 school board member.

The district’s back-to-school advisory committee recommended sticking with the current schedule of fewer in-person days. The committee cited a slight increase in the number of elementary students testing positive for coronavirus, as well as social distancing concerns and not seeing a big enough decline in COVID-19 cases

“The target positivity rate seems to be 5 percent. Our positivity rate on the last report was 11.8 percent,” said Bert Postell, chairman of the advisory committee.

Still, the majority of the school board members felt like it was time to move.

“If we determine that it’s in the best interest of our students and families to take a step back, then we’re willing to take that step,” Postell said.

And the advisory committee will remain active as its members watching the numbers throughout the school year.

The district also says that AIKEN iNNOVATE parents are still bound to their commitment of one semester.

The district said the latest data shows 233 people have been quarantined. There are 17 positive cases of COVID-19, including six students.

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