Governor McMaster says all school districts must submit reopening plans that allow both face-to-face and virtual instruction

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Governor Henry McMaster was joined by state leaders to discuss the reopening of schools this fall.

He said parents need to have the option between whether they want to send their children to the classroom or whether they want them to stay at home for virtual learning.

The governor said virtual education does not work well for all students compared to face-to-face learning.

Public schools have been directed to submit plans for reopening by Friday for approval and to consider September 8 as the starting date. The day after Labor Day is the final day schools must reopen, according to state law.

“We must see that the children have these schools available,” he said, noting that giving children and excellent education was essential.

Gov. McMaster also called on State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman to not approve any district plan that doesn’t allow parents to send their children to school for face-to-face learning. No executive order will be issued; the superintendent and district will provide plans to get students back to school.

$216 million is available to be accessed by districts to pay for reopening expenses and assure classrooms are safe and secure. The money went to the State Department of Education from the CARES Act.

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A broadband plan is also in the works; however, some students in rural areas don’t have internet access, Gov. McMaster said it is not fair to make students rely solely on virtual learning.

Child abuse and neglect reports are down significantly, McMaster said, because children are not in schools to file complaints. “We suspect incidents have gone up during this time, but the children are not in schools to report them,” he said.

A lot of that is due to children not being in school where cases can be reported.

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman later released a statement which reads:

“Every South Carolina parent must be afforded the option to choose virtual learning or a face to face model for their child this school year. The pandemic has shown the vital importance of our public education system and the broad range of services beyond teaching it provides for our students every day. Our goal must be a return to five day a week in-person instruction as safely and as soon as possible.

We cannot, however, turn a blind eye to the health and safety of our students and staff when the spread of the virus in some of our communities is among the highest in the world. School leaders, in consultation with public health experts, are best positioned to determine how in-person operations should be carried out to fit the needs of their local communities. I remain committed to supporting them in this endeavor and will only approve those plans that offer high-quality options and keep safety as their top priority.”

A spokesperson for Spearman’s office tells News 2 she did not attend Wednesday’s press conference with Governor McMaster because she does not agree with the 5-day directive, but she does agree that parents must have the option of in-person and virtual classes.

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