School reopening plan features 2 options for parents

in Coronavirus/Schools by

District says it could still start with all-virtual instruction

By Mindy Lucas

Parents of Beaufort County school children will have two options for their child’s education when schools reopen this fall – keep children home for virtual instruction or send them to school for in-person education.

However, the plan comes with one important caveat: Even if families choose the face-to-face option, which will include new Covid-19 protocols designed to keep students and staff safe, there is still the possibility that schools may switch to an all virtual model.

“…As we approach that Sept. 8 start date, if conditions are not safe to go back into the classrooms to do face-to-face instruction, then we will begin everyone virtual,” said Superintendent Frank Rodriguez at an online press conference held with members of the media on Friday, July 17.

The full plan, which was also released on Friday and posted on the district’s website, provides additional details of both options.

It also includes health and safety protocols for riding buses, wearing face coverings, now required in schools, and testing and quarantining should students or staff become sick or exhibit symptoms.

The release of the district’s plan followed a press conference from S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster earlier in the week in which he urged South Carolina schools to reopen after Labor Day.

While Beaufort County had already elected to move its start date to Sept. 8, many South Carolina school districts had planned for an Aug. 17 reopening date. But state officials thought that date was too soon to ensure the health and safety of parents, teachers and students.

Meanwhile, parents should go ahead and choose which option they prefer, district officials said on Friday so that they can finish planning for how many students to expect in classrooms this fall.

If the district has an abundance of parents who choose the face-to-face option, for example, schools may shift to a hybrid model of instruction in order to adhere to physical distancing and other guidelines recommended by DHEC.

In that scenario, school days would be divided into AA and BB days that would allow schools to split the number of students in each class and decrease the number of students in the building on any given day, officials said.

On days when students are not at school they would be at home participating in distance learning, or the virtual model of instruction.

School officials said they won’t know until more registrations are in, if they will be switching to the hybrid model. As of Friday, the district had only received about 6,000 registrations, with 60 percent signing up for face-to-face instruction and 40 percent opting for the virtual model.

With 22,000 students in the district, school officials expect the bulk of registrations to come in within the next few weeks.

Mindy Lucas is the Beaufort reporter for The Island News and is a staff writer for Lowcountry Weekly. She can be reached at mindy.islandnews@gmail.com.

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