Darlington County School Board Announces Move to In-Person Learning on Sept. 21
At their September meeting, the Darlington County Board of Education voted 6-1 to transition traditional students from eLearning to in-person learning, beginning on Sept. 21. Elementary students enrolled in face-to-face schools will attend classes in person five days a week. Middle and high school face-to-face students will use an A-B schedule to attend school in-person two days a week and continue with eLearning for the remaining three days. Students enrolled in the Darlington County Virtual Academy will continue their virtual lessons uninterrupted. The decision is based on the trend of declining COVID-19 cases in the county, as reported by DHEC.
“Over the past few weeks, the reports have indicated that the numbers of infections and cases are declining in Darlington County,” said Warren Jeffords, chairman of the Darlington County Board of Education. “We are eager to get students safely back to in-person learning. Other schools and districts around us have returned successfully. We have the safety procedures in place and we will strictly enforce them. We believe our students learn best in a classroom and we want to provide them that opportunity in a safe manner.”
Beginning Sept. 21, elementary school students will return to face-to-face learning in the school buildings five days a week. Based on the number of students in the buildings, the district is confident social distancing guidelines can be maintained to ensure students’ ability to safely attend school in person five days a week.
Middle and high school students will move to an A/B in-person schedule on Sept. 21. They will attend in-person school two days each week and participate in eLearning on the three days they are not in the building. Half the students will attend school in-person on Monday and Wednesday (“A group”). The other half will attend school in person on Tuesday and Thursday (“B group”). On the days the students are not in school, they will have eLearning. By splitting the student bodies of the middle and high schools in half, the lower numbers of students will allow for proper social distancing, creating a safe environment for students and staff. Middle and high school students will be notified of their assigned in-person days by their school this week.
K-12 students enrolled in self-contained special education classes will return to face-to-face school five days a week, beginning Sept. 21.
The district has outlined numerous safety practices and procedures in their Back-to-School guide:
- Students and staff will be instructed to stay home when sick.
- All staff and students will be required to wear masks covering nose and mouth while in the schools and on the buses.
- High touch areas (doorknobs, handles, etc.) will be sanitized daily.
- Restrooms will be cleaned throughout the day.
- Students and staff will maintain proper social distancing.
- Desks will be adequately spaced.
- No visitors will be permitted beyond the front office.
- Students will be taught and reminded of proper hand-washing. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the building.
- Sharing of items that are difficult to clean or disinfect will be discouraged.
- Schools will provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure social distancing and create a safe traffic flow.
- Signage about COVID-19 symptoms, preventing spreading germs, hand washing, etc. will be placed strategically throughout school and district buildings.
- Drinking fountains will be off-limits. Students are encouraged to bring their own water bottles.
- Classrooms and high traffic areas will be stocked with cleaner, paper towels and hand sanitizer.
- Health offices will be managed to provide appropriate isolation of sick students or staff.
The Board members believe it’s important to return to in-person school because students learn best in face-to-face settings. Board members also discussed the burden eLearning placed on working families and the need to provide socio-emotional support for students and staff during the pandemic.
“We would not move to in-person school if we did not believe we could do so as safely as possible,” said Jeffords. “Together we will work to provide a safe learning environment for our students and staff.”