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Rock Hill School Board Chair: 'We Have A Plan In Place' When Classes Resume

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Rock HIll Public Schools
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While most school districts in North Carolina started school two weeks early today, teachers in Rock Hill, South Carolina, returned to the classroom today a week later than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Credit Rock Hill Schools
Helena Miller chairs the Rock Hill Schools board in South Carolina.

Students will not begin lessons until Sept. 8. Some will be online only, and others will take classes Tuesdays and Thursdays or Wednesdays and Fridays, with Mondays reserved for those who need additional help.

Prior to Rock Hill school officials approving the mix of virtual and in-person instruction, many teachers marched in front of the district’s administration building, expressing concerns about returning to school buildings. School board chair Helena Miller says they have done what they can to address those concerns.

Helena Miller: All of our buildings are going to be meticulously cleaned. We are requiring our staff to wear masks as they are moving around in the buildings and, of course, temperature checks for all of our staff members — you know, practicing those social distance protocols.

Gwendolyn Glenn: The students, you say, will come back in September. What are some of the things that are in place for them?

Miller: Obviously, we are going to be practicing social distancing, keeping everybody six foot apart. We are going to for sure require masks at all times when they are on school busses and when they are moving around in the buildings. The board is currently working on a policy and discussing whether we will allow the children to take off their masks when they're sitting six foot apart at their desks or not, so we will see how that pans out at the end of the month.

Glenn: Well, with them six feet apart, do you have enough space for all of the students, especially the larger schools?

Miller: Yes, we do. You know, we offered two different options to parents and kids. One group is going to extend school in person and full virtual in our virtual academy. We across the board have about 40% of students that have chosen this option.

Glenn: What about recess and physical education, especially recess for the younger students? Will that be allowed?

Miller: Absolutely.

Glenn: How can they socially distance? How are you going to be able to keep them six feet apart during recess?

Miller: Recess may look a little different than it has in the past. Maybe a little bit more structured activities to make sure that we can do that. But I don't think it's in anybody's interest or best interest not to have recess available to our kids.

Glenn: Are the guidelines for each school to follow in terms of recess?

Miller: Those are coming from the district office, yes.

Glenn: OK. So, with other states, like Georgia, thousands of students are being quarantined and teachers, they're getting cases. Are you concerned, looking at what's happening in Georgia and other places with thousands of quarantines having to be ordered?

Miller: You know, it's impossible to say that we're not concerned and anxious and worried. What I do know is that we have a plan in place that will keep our buildings clean, that will keep our students and teachers socially distant, that follows all of the guidelines in terms of keeping those safety precautions in place that we have gotten from our local CDC and (the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Concern).

And at the end of the day, that's the best that we can do. I'm also sending my own three children in. As a mother, yes, I do believe that we have a working plan in place. But like anything, you know, this plan, we are constantly monitoring what the incidence rates and what our numbers for COVID-19 in our local ZIP codes are. So, you know, we will adjust accordingly.

Glenn: Would that adapting call for going back to all virtual, do you have a point that you're looking at, "OK, we need to go all virtual?"

Miller: There are. It's not only based on the cases alone. There are places where, you know, our superintendent, the local district superintendent, could potentially say, you know, we're now in a situation where we don't feel comfortable any longer.

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