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SC Education Department Approves Amended Richland One Reopening Plan, Masks Required In All Schools

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After parents petitioned for face-to-face learning this fall, South Carolina Superintendent of Education (SCDE) Molly Spearman approved Richland County School District One‘s reopening plan with a few mandatory modifications.

Spearman approved the plan — along with 35 others Friday — but added that the approval is contingent upon the district offering an in-person option for all students beginning Sept. 14 at the latest.

“We are modifying our plan to create an in-person option one day a week during Phase 1 of our plan. We will provide additional information to our parents next week,” said Richland One Superintendent Dr. Craig Witherspoon. “As we move forward, our priority continues to be protecting the health and safety of our students and staff.”

However, SCDE officials said here that the district needed to have two days a week of face-to-face learning offered for all students this fall.

Last week, Richland One administrators submitted a plan to SCDE, which offers parents the choice to enroll their children in a year-long virtual learning program or choose the phase-in option. Originally, the plan was to start school virtually for all students until the percent positive rate of COVID-19 tests dropped to below 10 percent in Richland County.

As of July 27, Richland County had a 24.7 percent positive rate.

“The Phase-In Model begins with eLearning (Phase 1) and transitions to hybrid (Phase 2), with students attending school in-person two days a week and learning from home the other three days, then to traditional face-to-face instruction five days a week (Phase 3),” Richland One officials said in a release Friday. “The transitions would be made based on the COVID-19 risk rating for Richland County as determined by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). The current risk rating is High Risk.”

Richland One also extended the deadline for parents to enroll their students in the virtual program. They now have until Aug. 4 to register here.

Earlier this week, more than 850 parents signed a petition asking for Richland One administrators to change their reopening plan and offer a face-to-face option, claiming that the old plan doesn’t meet the needs of all students, especially students in impoverished and working class homes, and students with special needs. About 72 percent of Richland One students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Spearman also approved 35 other districts’ plans Friday, including:

  • Anderson School District One
  • Anderson School District Two
  • Anderson School District Three
  • Anderson School District 4
  • Bamberg School District One
  • Bamberg School District 2
  • Williston School District 29 (Barnwell 29)
  • Barnwell School District 45
  • Charleston County School District
  • Cherokee County School District
  • Chesterfield County School District
  • Clarendon School District One
  • Clarendon County School District Three
  • Dillon School District Three
  • Dillon School District Four
  • Dorchester School District Two
  • Dorchester School District Four
  • Florence Public School District One
  • Florence County School District Four
  • Florence County School District Five
  • Georgetown County School District
  • Hampton County School District 2
  • Jasper County School District
  • Laurens County School District 55
  • Lee County School District
  • Marion County School District (Marion 10)
  • Marlboro County School District
  • McCormick County School District
  • Richland County School District One
  • Spartanburg School District One
  • Spartanburg School District Three
  • Spartanburg School District Four
  • Spartanburg School District Five
  • Spartanburg School District Six
  • Spartanburg School District 7
  • Union County Schools

“As we prepare to welcome students and teachers back to South Carolina classrooms for face to face instruction, it is imperative that we implement measures that are proven to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “Requiring the use of face masks for everyone in our school buildings in combination with other mitigation tactics will help ensure that we have safe learning environments even when optimal social distancing is not feasible.”

Masks Required

In a press release issued by SCDE Friday, Spearman also announced that masks will be required in all South Carolina public schools for all students and staff with the exception of children younger than 2 or those with certain health issues.

“The SCDE is helping to facilitate the face mask requirement by purchasing and providing five cloth face masks for every teacher, bus driver, custodian, and food service worker,” the release said. “The SCDE has already purchased cloth face masks for students and staff taking part in Academic Recovery Camps and will make masks readily available on school buses where Superintendent Spearman previously implemented a requirement that they be worn. The SCDE has also worked with the S.C. Department of Administration and S.C. Emergency Management Division to place large statewide orders for masks, face shields, gowns, gloves, flexiglass, hand sanitizer, and other protective equipment on behalf of school districts.”

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