Beaufort Co. gives update on back-to-school plans

Beaufort Co. gives update on back-to-school plans

BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - “If conditions are not safe to go back into the classrooms to do face to face instruction, then we will begin everyone virtual,” said Beaufort County Superintendent, Dr. Frank Rodriguez.

Beaufort County is getting a clearer image of what school will look like when it starts in September.

Beaufort County schools are giving parents the option: do they want face-to-face learning or virtual learning. Right now parents are able to choose but if too many choose face-to-face the school might have to adopt a hybrid schedule.

"The measure is when you would not be able to accommodate the recommendations from DHEC, I think is the way to look at it."

Those recommendations require smaller class sizes. Individual principals will have to be in charge of making the decision.

"Our individual schools are weighing in on those types of things along the way. It's not a decision you just mandate."

The first concern is teachers and staff. So far only 60 of 1,700 teachers have requested to teach online

“If they qualify for special accommodations then we must do what we have to do in order to accommodate them so they can do the essential functions of their job,” said Alice Walton, Chief of HR.

But a large portion of the workforce is at risk. 366 teachers are 55 years old or older, 175 could retire today because of age or years of service, and 46 percent of the teacher force are currently in a high risk group or care for someone in a high risk group.

These factors mean the district has to keep them extra safe.

“We obviously have to be, or take into consideration their personal circumstances as well,” Deputy Superintendent Duke Bradley.

The second and equally important consideration, what students and parents want. A total of 6,000 students have registered for school already. Sixty percent are interested in face to face learning, while 40 percent are opting for virtual instruction.

If the trends stay this way as more students register, that means principles will have to find a way to keep social distancing at 60 percent capacity in their buildings.

Parents can expect a decision as soon as principals are able to get a clear picture of their schools' preferences.

“Depending on how many registrations are in by school you know different schools may be able to make that assessment at an earlier pace.”

“We are looking at a much more aligned model of standard-based instruction for our students. That would be aligned virtually and face to face instruction,” said Dr. Marty Stratos, Chief Instrumental Service Officer.

Substitute teachers will have stricter guidelines.

“Their subs are going to be required to do what we require teachers to do”

After school care will have to be socially distanced. More organizations will have to step in like the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA.

“So we will be working as well with our own schools and principles regarding that aftercare component,” said Dr. Rodriguez.

Transportation will keep buses at 50 percent capacity and one child per seat.

“Loading the buses from the back to the front. And then they recommend appropriate distancing as you disembark buses.”

Students of all ages will be required to wear masks at all times except recess.

“With appropriate spacing they may have the opportunity to remove that mask for a little bit.”

The district will increase sanitation with the $4.9 million given to them by the care act.

“Focus on academics delivery and to focus on health and cleanliness of facilities.”

Online students without access to internet will be given more hotspot devices. The District plans to use the next month before school starts to refine a plan for what they will do if someone within the school is infected.

“It will really give us an opportunity to kind of refine what our protocols will be under those circumstances. "

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