CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County School District Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait announced on Monday some of the steps necessary for reopening schools in the fall or when it’s deemed safe.
“We will have to have brand new protocols for safety," Postlewait said. "Moving forward there will be some things, like many people have said, that schools will be changed forever. We will simply not be able to pick up where we left off on March 13th.”
The announcement came during a school board meeting over a Zoom-video conference. It was the first time she spoke publicly since Governor Henry McMaster ordered all schools to remain closed for the remainder of the year.
She said all staff will also undergo new, thorough professional development.
“We will advance most students to the next grade,” she said and then added the district will work hard to catch up any students who have fallen behind.
Chief Academic Officer Karolyn Belcher also announced about 10-percent of Charleston County students don’t have access to WiFi or a device.
“We’re working very closely with community leaders to close that gap," Belcher said. "As we move into the next phase of this, it’s going to be critical we know which students are able to take advantage of the instruction we’re offering and which students are not. All students should have access to learning packets.”
Postlewait also reiterated plans she announced last week to hold virtual graduations for all high school seniors and delaying in-person ceremonies until they were deemed safe.
During the same meeting, school board members voted to allow district staff to explore options on where to send some West Ashley middle school students next year.
Last week, board members voted unanimously to allow the district to consider placing sixth graders on West Ashley Middle School’s campus and seventh and eighth graders on the new C.E. Williams Middle School campus, but it needed Monday’s voted to become official.
The school board approved plans in January to put all West Ashley middle school students on to the new C.E. Williams campus being built next to West Ashley High. But, now with concerns over the spread of COVID-19, those plans are being reconsidered.
“Our goal at that point in January was to have all the students on the new C.E. Williams campus, and that is our ultimate goal," CCSD Board Vice Chair Kate Darby said. "But, with the COVID outbreak happening in March, our staff’s focus has been on educating kids and providing every resource to them, so there are a number of things to work out to have all of the students on the new C.E. Williams campus.”
If the district moved forward with the current plans to keep all students on one campus, trailers would have to be brought in, at least temporarily, to accommodate all the grades. As of February, the plans required at least five trailers to be added.
The decision to merge middle schools has also received criticism from some parents and state legislators. In January, two lawmakers sent letters to the South Carolina Department of Revenue asking for an investigation into the decision. The results of those inquiries have not yet been reported.