Students will start new year the way they ended the old, in remote learning mode
With the local number of coronavirus cases passing their summer peak and hospitals at capacity, the Georgetown County School District delayed the return of students to in-person classes after winter break. The district will operate in its remote phase for the week of Jan. 4.
“We thought for everyone’s best interest we would move to remote setting for that first week,” superintendent Keith Price said. “We will watch as things develop throughout that week and then make a decision about what happens at that time.”
Students ended 2020 with two days of remote learning this week.
One of Price’s concerns is that students and staff members could be exposed to COVID-19 during New Year’s celebrations, and then return to schools three days later before they show any symptoms or get tested. If staff members get exposed and call in sick, the district will have to scramble to make sure their classes are covered, he said.
The state saw a spike in cases in the weeks after Thanksgiving, including more new cases in a recent five-day period than the state had in March, April and May combined.
There were 62 COVID-19 patients at Waccamaw Community and Georgetown Memorial hospitals this week, according to Tidelands Health, a record for the pandemic that put the hospitals at 108 percent of capacity and 125 percent of intensive-care capacity.
The number of new cases reported in the state was 3,499 on Wednesday.
The district had already put two schools – Georgetown Middle and Pleasant Hill Elementary – back into a remote phase in December because so many staff members were in quarantine.
“It had everything to do to with staffing effectively so that we could operate our schools safely and efficiently,” Price said.
The district has also had a couple of Fridays when one positive test led to a lot of quarantines at an individual school.
“Fortunately those didn’t turn into a large number of positives, but we nevertheless had to try to scramble to get staffing in place so that we could still operate our schools efficiently,” Price said.
The district still plans to return to a hybrid schedule starting on Jan. 11, Price added.
The school board will meet on Jan. 12. Board Member Pat DeLeone, who represents District 2, has been pushing for the district to expand the hybrid phase to more than two days a week. The board has twice voted down hybrid-plus proposals.
As the schools closed for the Christmas break, 28 students and seven staff members were positive for COVID-19, and 222 students and 48 staff members were in quarantine, according to the district.
Waccamaw High School had the most positive cases among students, 13, and the most students in quarantine, 72.
Both of the school’s basketball programs and its cheerleading squad have been in quarantine for weeks.
Waccamaw High also had three staff members in quarantine, but none that have tested positive.
Waccamaw Elementary had one student who tested positive and 12 students and one staff member in quarantine.
Waccamaw Intermediate had one staff member who has tested positive and six students and two staff members in quarantine.
Waccamaw Middle had one student and one staff member who tested positive and six students and two staff members in quarantine.
Coastal Montessori Charter School, Howard Adult Center and the facilities offices were the only places in the district with no positive cases and no one in quarantine.