WILLIAMSBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Williamsburg County Schools superintendent predicts her district will not have a regular school year as educators continue to plan around the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Rose Wilder met with health officials in the county to talk about the status of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic Monday morning.
“There may be a blended approach, we may serve a fraction of the students at various times but I do not see all the students served at the same time,” Wilder said.
She said her staff have been talking about all the options for the upcoming school year, and because of a spike of COVID-19 cases in South Carolina, in-person classes may not happen. Wilder said the plans could change, but right now they are looking at opening virtual school after Labor Day.
However, the State Department of Education will likely have schools add five additional days to the start of the school year for children in Kindergarten through eighth grade to be assessed and see where they stand going into the school year. Wilder said those assessments would likely be done the last week in August and would be in-person.
“Parents would have the option to bring their kids in, or we would follow CDC guidelines and transport the students via school buses,” added Wilder. Each student would come in at their designated times and the assessment would take about three hours. Students would only come for their session, not all five days.
“We’re hoping to virtually open school for everyone after that. Worst case scenario is that we have a different [start] date for K-8th grade versus 9-12th grade. That’s because we need devices for all of our students.”
Wilder said the school district has enough laptops for 9-12th graders to use, but the Chromebooks used by the younger children are on back order.
There is also a concern about internet access because, according to Wilder, about 30-35% of students don’t have internet access at home.
“The State Department [of Education] is working on the hotspots until the General Assembly finalizes the plan to do broadband for our rural communities,” she added. The goal is to get all students learning virtually so teachers don’t also have to put together pencil and paper packets.
Wilder also encouraged all parents with a four-year-old or a student turning four before Sept. 1 to register the child for school because they will qualify for a free laptop through another program.
There will be parent town halls scheduled in the next few weeks so parents can ask questions and give feedback on the plans as they are finalized.