Majority of SC superintendents believe schools should remain closed for the rest of the year

Majority of SC superintendents believe schools should remain closed for the rest of the year
With an average of 700 students per school, some superintendents in the Midlands said there is no way to effectively practice social distancing. (Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - According to the South Carolina Department of Education, the majority of superintendents in South Carolina do not think students and teachers should return to school this year.

Governor Henry McMaster’s current executive order closes schools through the end of April, which is just 10 days away. With an average of 700 students per school, some superintendents in the Midlands said there is no way to effectively practice social distancing.

“We have a massive amount of students all in one location. A lot of these students live with grandparents, so they’ll be going back home to susceptible populations. So, I just feel like that would be rushed,” said Kershaw County Superintendent Shane Robbins.

Kershaw County was one of the first school districts Governor McMaster ordered to close in early March.

Richland Two Superintendent Baron Davis said returning to school would cause undue anxiety for students and staff.

“I think it will make it very difficult for us at the local level and superintendents, teachers, and students to practice true social distancing in a public school setting," said Davis.

Davis said adjusting to e-learning has not been easy, but he believes it's necessary to protect students.

"There are still some things that we’re not sure how to figure out, but we’re working on it together," Davis explained. "We’re just getting used to a different format of delivering that content and providing those same services to our students, particularly our most vulnerable populations and our students that may have different learning abilities."

Richland One is also working to make sure students aren't left behind. The district's social workers and counselors are reaching out to students in need. Superintendent Craig Witherspoon said one of their biggest challenges has been ensuring students can access their work online.

"Not all of our students have internet access at home, so in addition to all of the E-learning that we’ve had, we’ve also distributed over 29,000 learning packets," Witherspoon explained.

As teachers, students and parents navigate this time of uncertainty, the S.C. Department of Education said it’s putting the health of the community first.

“Teaching and the instruction is important, but that is not the most important thing that you need to be worried about right now. It is the mental and physical health of your children and of yourself," said State Superintendent Molly Spearman.

Spearman said she understands the concerns people have about returning to school and she stresses that the Department of Education is taking those concerns into consideration.

“I hope you’ll trust us and know a good decision will be announced this week," she said.

According to Spearman, the State Department of Education is having talks with electric companies about ways to increase broadband in rural areas for those struggling to learn online.

Parents should also start to notice a decrease in the amount of school work required at home. Spearman said educators have changed policies after learned over the past few weeks that a student’s school day at home is much different than face-to-face learning in a classroom setting.

Since schools closed nearly six weeks ago, school districts across the state have prepared and delivered close to 5 million meals for students.

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