School board approves five-day classes for students
For the first time in almost a year, Georgetown County students will return to classrooms five days a week starting next month.
The school board approved a reopening plan this week that expands in-person classes to five days a week for elementary and intermediate school students on March 1 and middle and high school students on March 8.
The vote was 8-1, with Board Member Randy Walker opposed. Walker wanted to wait until staff members get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We cannot wait until our teachers get vaccinated,” Board Member Pat DeLeone said.
“The sooner the better for me to see children back in school five days a week,” Board Member Patti Hammel said.
“This decision was not made without continued research and guidance from health, safety and medical experts,” Superintendent Keith Price said.
Except for a few weeks after winter break, the majority of county students have been in a hybrid phase since mid-September, attending classes in-person two days a week. Elementary and intermediate school students moved into a hybrid-plus phase earlier this month when the second semester started.
The district also has a virtual program with 2,666 students enrolled. Those students will stay virtual unless a parent or guardian asks that they return to in-person classes.
Since the board approved hybrid-plus for elementary and intermediate school students, parents have been attending board meetings to urge the district to do the same thing for middle and high school students.
Megan Stump of Litchfield Plantation, the mother of a Waccamaw High senior, wanted to expand the in-person option to five days a week immediately.
“Hybrid is not good enough. Hybrid-plus is not good enough,” Stump said. “We need to have them in school for five days a week for consistency and learning and a stable safe environment.”
And she added, “We have got to do better for the young people in our community.”
Melissa Moschgat of Hagley, the mother of Waccamaw Intermediate and Waccamaw High students, asked the board to take emotion out of their decision.
“We’ve got to step back and look at what’s best for everybody,” Moschgat said. “We are not going to make everyone happy.”
Eric Haas, an English teacher at Carvers Bay High School, urged the board not to expand in-person options for middle and high school students until teachers get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I have yet to speak with a teacher that does not want students back in their classrooms every day, when it is safe,” Haas said. “However, given the current situation with the pandemic, many of us feel we are still at risk if the middle and high school students return to the classroom full time.”
Many teachers have lost family members to COVID-19 and feel constantly exposed to the virus, Haas added.
The district has a plan in place for administering the COVID-19 vaccine to staff members whenever it becomes available.
Alan Walters, the district’s executive director of safety, told the school board that the district partnered with Tidelands Health to come up with the plan, but could carry it out without assistance from Tidelands personnel.
While the number of district students and staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 has remained relatively low, 123 students and 45 staff members were in quarantine as of Wednesday morning.
Walters said once staff members are vaccinated they would not have to go into quarantine if exposed to the virus.
“That would also help us with our staff,” he said.