CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The pandemic caused unprecedented changes at schools, prompting closures across the country, and shifting the way both students learn and how educators teach.
“Effective immediately, I have ordered the closing of all schools in the state of South Carolina,” said Gov. McMaster during a press conference last spring.
Declaring a state of emergency, with that historic executive order, Gov. McMaster shut down all schools including colleges and universities for the rest of the academic school year.
Students, teachers, parents, and school leaders had to finish the year with a new way of learning virtually, a move that presented a challenge for many.
“We can catch them up; we may need a few extra days of instruction, but I believe our children will survive this,” remarked State Superintendent Molly Spearman.
Over the summer, plans were underway to safely reopen schools in that fall for the 2020-21 school year.
Districts across the state focused on several options for students including in-person learning, full e-learning virtual curriculum, or a hybrid blended model.
“Somewhere around 25% will come back in person for nine days, and then we think that every other child whose parent wants their child to come back in person would be able to send your child back on September 21st. That’s certainly what we’re hoping for. We can’t guarantee it, because that’s dependent upon the incident rates,” said CCSD Superintended Dr. Gerrita Postlewait.
School leaders working with medical experts to ensure safety when students return to the classroom.
“Looking at the reconfiguration of classrooms, maybe taking out furniture to allow that distancing that’s so necessary right now to protect students and staff,” said Dorchester District 2 spokeswoman, Patricia Raynor.
Virtual, in-person, or blended, September 8th was the first day of school for Lowcountry students.
“Well, it’s finally here,” said West Ashley High School principal, Ryan Cumback. “We’ve been planning for it since March. It’s just nice to finally have kids back in the building … we have about 560 students in the building (today) of our 1,857 that are assigned to us.”
Face masks, plexiglass, extra hand sanitizer, smaller class sizes, socially distant seating, and changes in the direction students walk the halls were among the changes for the first round of in-person learners.
Still, parents had plenty of questions and concerns. “I have a whole text group of moms who are very frustrated, and we are going through the same thing,” said CCSD Parent, April Cothran, upset about not letting all students back for in-person instruction. “Looks like we won’t be chosen until the next go-around, or maybe the very end.”
And more students returned to in-person learning as the number of COVID-19 cases went down.
“It wasn’t like it was even for the first day of school – I mean, the routine seemed to go very well this morning; I can’t say enough how good it was to see the kids back and they were happy to be back and so excited to see their teachers. It’s been a great day,” said Lori Estep, executive director of elementary schools for DD2.
As 2020 draws to a close, and the COVID-19 numbers increase, some school districts are once again moving to full virtual learning for students and halting sports activities for the first few weeks of 2021.