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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

In-Person Classes More Likely In SC; Details Not Certain


COLUMBIA, S.C. — It looks increasingly likely many South Carolina public school students will return to real classrooms at the end of the summer.

But the details on what those classrooms will look like next school year in the COVID-19 world and even how often students might be inside school buildings is still quite uncertain.

A group of teachers, administrators and other education officials called the AccelerateED Task Force issued a report this week about what should be done with summer school geared toward elementary students to help them catch up with nearly three months away from the classroom.

Summer school should be considered a test run for fall classes and districts should make every effort to teach elementary students in person this summer, said the task force, which was organized by state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman.

They also need to plan thoroughly for a possible disruption of in-person learning if there is a second wave of COVID-19 infections, the report said.

The report recommends 6 feet of social distancing in classrooms and buses. It suggests lunches could be eaten in classrooms with doors propped open when possible to keep children and teachers from touching doors. If recess is allowed, the report said students should wash their hands as soon as returning inside and playground equipment should be immediately disinfected.

But plenty of details are left to local districts like Greenville County, which is the state's largest with 77,000 children or about 10% of all of South Carolina's public schools students.

Earlier this week, the Greenville County Schools Board of Trustees heard about six different fall scheduling options, but made no decision.

They ranged from all distance learning, to dividing students in the district into four groups, with separate plans to bring one group in one day a week or two groups in two days a week with Friday as an online learning day. Other suggestions were a regular schedule like before the coronavirus or students in class every day, but attending for fewer hours so teachers could also do online learning for parents not comfortable sending them to school.

The South Carolina School Boards Association surveyed its members. Two-thirds of them supported some kind of split schedule in the fall if social distancing is still recommended.

Only 20% thought online or other out of classroom instruction to end this school year because of COVID-19 was equal to in school teaching and half of them felt schools shouldn't offer a choice of in person or online classes to parents. Some noted the extra work it would put on teachers, according to the survey. About half the state's school board members responded.

More than 82% thought standardized testing should be suspended next year, a position taken by teacher groups as well.

“As all of us work at the massive task of managing education and continuing learning in a period of unprecedented disruption, we should remember what has always been true: every school is different, and every district is different,” association president and Greenville County Schools Board member Chuck Saylors wrote in an opinion piece for newspapers across the state.

Exactly what will happen with fall high school sports is also uncertain. The South Carolina High School League said Thursday that athletes and teams at public schools can begin summer workouts when their district or school allows academic activities on campus. Other states have set their own dates for workouts to begin.

Nearly 10,800 people in South Carolina had tested positive for the coronavirus with at least 470 deaths, the Department of Health and Environmental Control said in its Thursday update.


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.