Superintendent: COVID rates still too high for Charleston Co. students to return

VIDEO: Superintendent: COVID rates still too high for Charleston Co. students to return

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County Schools’ Restart Task Force met for the last time on Friday as their reopening plan heads for its final vote next week.

The plan includes a Sept. 8 start date, face mask requirements for students and staff, and an all-year virtual option.

“Our COVID rate is too high,” Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait said on Friday. “If I were to make this decision today, we could not start many, if any students, back in school.”

Postlewait said there is a chance some students could return for in-person instruction in September even if the case numbers don’t improve enough for everyone to return.

”Regardless of whatever decision is made for the masses or most children, if there’s any way we could offer a few children an opportunity to come back as soon as possible after Sept. 8 in-person, we would like to try to do that,” she said. “But before we do that, we do need some more refined metrics.”

“We successfully ran a daycare program with a small number of children for Roper Hospital all Spring-long at Memminger. We did not have a COVID positive case until the first of July, and that was one of the adults,” Postlewait said. “There was no certainty that the infection was caused by the person being at Memminger Elementary.”

The task force’s conversation then moved towards the choices parents have to make over the next couple months. One parent asked for clarification on which schools will reopen to all of its students and which ones would only reopen to some.

Chief Operating Officer Jeff Borowy said those details have not yet been finalized, but the district is working to release that information next week.

“We have not put out numbers to any school yet, and the challenge is the concern of it being incomplete because we don’t have the busing capabilities yet,” Borowy said.

The reopening plan is set to go before the school board on Monday for its final vote. If approved, Chief Academic Officer Karoyln Belcher said parents would then receive a survey about their learning preferences.

The form would ask parents whether they want in-person (if possible) or virtual. It would then have follow-ups to those options, like asking if they’d prefer in-person even if the school will operate on a split schedule.

The discussion then transitioned to increasing communication between the schools and families.

“I think even if we’re not saying x-number of kids are coming back, we’re saying, ‘This is what we’re working on. We’re going to let you know as soon as possible. We know everything is changing,’ School Board Vice Chair Kate Darby said. “Just letting the parents know the work y’all are doing.”

“Even that is just so helpful in terms of lowering the temperature a little bit across the community, helping people feel a little more at ease,” Parent Paul Asper said.

Postlewait said she added that concern to her to-do list for the upcoming week. That list also included getting specific criteria from the state’s department of health around reopening and increasing the amount of details given on the forms going out to parents.

The meeting then concluded with a Charleston County COVID update from DHEC Dr. Katy Richardson.

“We had over 300 cases/day back in early July. That has now fallen to an average of around 200 cases/day, so certainly we’re heading in the right direction,” Richardson said. “But, when I take what the population of Charleston County is and look at that over a two-week period, our incident’s rate may drop from 886 per 100,000, which what is was with the last numbers that came out, to around 608. That’s certainly in the right direction, but that still is around double what the rate would need to be to fall from the high incidents to the medium incidents.”

The full “Safe Restart” proposal can be viewed here. The final task force meeting can be watched here.

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