Charleston Co. Schools may push start date as COVID-19 cases climb

Charleston Co. Schools may push start date as COVID-19 cases climb
Charleston County Schools may push start date as COVID-19 cases climb. (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District is considering pushing the start date of school back to Aug. 31 as a surge in COVID-19 cases puts the Aug. 18 start date into question.

The district’s reopening task force discussed this very topic on Friday with a majority of parents and teachers on the call supporting the delay though a handful did not.

Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait did not make her opinion known on the topic but said returning to the classroom would be unlikely if the state’s COVID-19 trends continue.

“We would have to see a downward trend rate that looks sustainable and will continue to flatten that curve significantly before we would move forward,” Postlewait said.

A final decision on this will be made in the next week as the task force finalizes its recommendations for the school board.

Parent and task force member Sherrie Snipes-Williams supports the delay.

“I assume that pushes the year end back to mid-June next year, so I think that’s fine,” Snipes-Williams said. “We just need to be aware of the numbers, and they are continuing to go up.”

Chief Academic Officer Karoyln Belcher then talked about some of the options they’re considering for the upcoming school year which includes an all-year virtual academy for parents who don’t want their kids going back into the classroom. She also outlined the other options they’re considering for parents who do want their kids going back.

In newly-released polling by the district, 53-percent of parents said their “learning model preference” was in the classroom, 33-percent said a mix of both at home and in school, and 14-percent said virtual.

The survey was taken from June 25 to July 6 and had 20,695 respondents. That’s 40-percent of the district’s parents, but it does represent all 78 schools.

“The real challenge of this next year is how we’re going to accelerate instruction, so to make sure we are not only shoring up what didn’t happen at the end of last year but to make sure that kids are getting exposed to efficient grade level content,” Belcher said.

The discussion then turned to COVID-19 testing.

“We’ve taken a lot of input on that,” Chief Operating Officer Jeff Borowy said. “At this point, we’re leaning toward making it highly recommended for staff and possibly students as they come back in. The con to that is the test is only as good as the day you get it. However, it sure would be nice to screen out people coming into the school on day one.”

The details of how testing would work and who would be tested are still being worked out, but one parent said she thinks everyone in the building should be given one.

“In regards to the COVID testing, I think teachers as well as students should be tested,” parent Tiffani Bush said. “I don’t see the benefit in just testing teachers and not testing the students. COVID in the classroom is COVID in the classroom regardless of who has it.”

Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait also announced in June the district is considering requiring all students to wear a face mask from when they get on to school property until they get to their seat in the classroom.

The final recommendations for the upcoming school year will be finalized next week and presented to the school board on July 20. That meeting as well as Friday’s task force meeting will be able to be viewed here.

Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.