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80% of S.C. school board members see in-person classes as key, survey finds

(WRDW)
Published: May. 28, 2020 at 8:28 AM EDT
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Thursday, May 28, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -- New survey results from the South Carolina School Boards Association show how school board members across the state believe they should proceed to safely resume normal operations.

The survey also gauged how they feel their schools have fared during the months of at-home learning.

A little more than 50 percent of the state’s school board members responded to the survey, and 80 percent of them believe face-to-face instruction and returning to school in the fall is important. The survey found 68 percent of school board members believe families in their districts are satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the quality of learning during the COVID-19 school closure.

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The survey showed school board members want to ensure each district is given flexibility in the fall.

“They want a range of options. They do not want universal mandates," said SCSBA President Chuck Saylors.

An overwhelming majority of members believe the state should seek a waiver to suspend student standardized testing next year.

“Educators need to use the upcoming year to focus on student learning, not end-of-year testing," Saylors explained.

The survey also highlighted some of South Carolina’s biggest educational challenges, such as access to broadband. “Members, especially in rural districts, list the lack of broadband as a huge consideration. In the state of South Carolina, currently, we have 150,000 households that do not have access to broadband. This is an issue our state must address sooner rather than later," said Saylors.

Transportation is another major issue the board says needs to be addressed.

Amelia McKie, who represents Richland One and Two on the SCSBA says at Richland Two’s board meeting last night, Superintendent Baron Davis went through one bus route with social distancing measures in place, and it took almost two hours to complete. “If you look at the hundreds of routes you have in a school district for elementary, for middle and high school every day, it’s something to think about,” McKie explained.

The SCSBA says it’s also concerned about a teacher and bus driver shortage, as well as the need for more mental health counselors and nurses in schools. They say they are considering asking teachers to come out of retirement to assist.

With a little less than three months until next school year, state education leaders have a lot to tackle, but they’re confident the right decisions will be made.

“Whether you’ve got a child in the system, whether you’re a teacher or an employee in the system, we’re going to do everything to ensure that building, that bus and the interactions of everyone involved in public education, it’s going to be safe,” Saylors said.

The board is split down the middle on the decision of whether parents should have the choice of sending their children back to school for in-person instruction or continuing with online learning at home. The SCSBA will present these survey results to the Accelerate ED task force.

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