Charleston Co. teachers won’t have to teach in person if they don’t feel safe

VIDEO: Charleston Co. teachers won’t have to teach in person if they don’t feel safe

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County teachers won’t be required to teach in-person classes at the start of the school year if they don’t feel safe, Chief Academic Officer Karolyn Belcher said Thursday.

“He or she would not have to teach in person,” Belcher said. But, they would need to report to school every day.

“All of our staff must report unless they have a medical condition,” she said. “In part, because we want to make sure we’re doing this really tightly this year.”

The teachers worried about safety would then teach from their classrooms, but their students would be learning from home. This could then impact how many students would be allowed to return to the classroom on Sept. 8.

“We do expect that early on more parents will probably want to send their children back then we have teachers who are comfortable coming back,” Superintendent Dr. Geritta Postlewait said.

In those cases, the district will use “objective criteria” to determine which students are allowed back and which ones would have to learn from home. Postlewait denied requests to give specifics on this and said they’re in the process of trying to decide how to make those choices.

”There are some children who, according to state and federal law, must be served if school is open,” she said. “We hope we have more capacity than that, and we’re working toward it. We don’t have enough data though yet to say what makes sense in making those decisions. We can promise people that the process will be objective.”

“There’s some things that most districts are considering that are definitely in our mind: kids who have special needs, thinking about our younger children and wanting to bring them back,” Belcher said. “But we’re also not sure if we have a problem. If we do, we’re going to think about equity, and we’re going to think about being fair.”

Belcher said to get a clearer answer on this they will first need to hear which teachers and students feel comfortable coming back. A new round of surveys asking just that went out to parents this week from their child’s school. It’s asking them if they want in-person, temporary virtual, or long-term virtual.

“We’re committing to offer our temporary remote for at least a quarter for parents in elementary and middle school or a semester in high school,” Belcher said. “So that way, if we are fortunate and our community continues to work together and the virus levels come down, we’re able to open fully in-person say at the end of the quarter for elementary and middle, but you still aren’t comfortable as a parent, you can transition your child into virtual academy.”

The district hopes to be able to start organizing where teachers and students will be placed by next week. At the earliest, parents will know by the week of Aug. 24 where their child will be placed, Belcher said. At the latest, it could be a week before school starts.

The deadline for the virtual academy is Friday by end of day. For more information on that option, click here.

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