Charleston County School District employees concerned with resuming in-person learning

Charleston County School District employees concerned with resuming in-person learning
The district says parents can keep their children home as a precautionary measure and their absence will be excused if they notify the child's teacher. (Source: Live 5 News)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Some employees and teachers in the Charleston County School District say it’s too soon return to the classroom following winter break.

CCSD officials says they will resume classes in-person on Monday.

Most school districts in the Lowcountry are resuming school with virtual learning following winter break as a COVID-19 precaution.

According to CCSD, they will monitor the COVID-19 rates very closely in order to identify any trends or issues that would require a change in their protocols or school schedules.

A CCSD employee says teachers from multiple schools have signed a letter expressing their concerns. The letter was sent to the school board and superintendent.

“It is greatly concerning that the Charleston County School District has made a decision which does not seem to be in the best interest of the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students or their families,” the letter said.

The district says parents can keep their children home as a precautionary measure and their absence will be excused if they notify the child’s teacher.

The full letter is included below:

We would like to make you aware of raised concerns regarding the current trend in COVID data with the hope that they could be relayed to the district superintendent and school board.

We would like to express our extreme concern regarding the return to in-person learning within our building on Monday, January 4, 2021. As alarming data regarding COVID positivity rates and statistics were released by DHEC over the last two weeks, we fully expected our CCSD leaders to use this information to make the decisions to ensure the safety of all people in our school. According to the data of COVID rates in our area, choosing virtual learning rather than face-to-face would be prudent at this time. The numbers of positive cases in the state have us greatly unsettled and uncomfortable. There have been 1,865 positive cases in Charleston County since December 17th, 2020. On December 31, the percent positive rate was 31.2% in South Carolina. Many districts, including several surrounding us, have decided to go virtual and err on the side of caution in order to keep their teachers, staff, and students safe. It is greatly concerning that the Charleston County School District has made a decision which does not seem to be in the best interest of the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students or their families.

On January 1, 2021, the district sent out phone calls and emails reminding all staff and students that we would be returning to school on Monday, January 4, 2021. There was information in these calls and emails ensuring everyone that the district is monitoring COVID trends. As such, parents are given the choice to keep their students home if they feel that it is not safe to return or as a precautionary measure. Parents were also told that teachers would be able to give students work that could be completed in lieu of going into a virtual class. Have the decision makers taken into account the amount of extra work this is adding to an already very stressful time for teachers? And now no advance notice given in order to properly plan? To our knowledge no teachers were involved in this decision or asked to be a part of the conversation that led to this decision. Why? If that truly is the case, then we must question our value as members of the CCSD family. If we were esteemed members than our input, as well as our physical well-being would be considered in the decision-making process.

We respectfully ask that you use the public data, and information at hand, in order to move our district to virtual learning until it is safe for everyone in CCSD. Our school administration, departments, faculty and staff have done a superb job following guidelines for COVID. We are proactive about keeping our school clean and ready for our students each and every day. We control what we can. Unfortunately, what is completely out of our control is the rapid increase in community spreading of COVID in our county. We should be vigilant, smart, and stay as safe as possible, which ultimately means staying out of the building until our numbers reach a safer level. If we do this now, we can possibly alleviate more time lost later in the year. We have to stop the numbers from rising. To date, COVID has taken 321 lives in Charleston County. That number continues to rise. You have the power to keep CCSD employees and our students from being part of that statistic. Please protect us, our families, our students, and their families. Thank you for your consideration.

Charleston County School District Officials responded to these concerns with the following statement:

Charleston County School District is committed to providing safe and healthy learning environments for all of our students and staff. We believe the protocols we have in place in our schools (and have had since the start of the school year) have limited the spread of COVID-19, and respected members of the local medical community agree with that assessment.

CCSD staff has been in constant communication with health experts during the Winter Break and continues to work with DHEC to ensure we have accurate, up-to-date data regarding COVID-19 positive cases for every school in the district. If conditions change, and we have to make adjustments to normal operating schedules on a school-by-school basis, notifications to those staff members, students, and their family members will go out immediately.

Regarding the question about additional work for classroom teachers, if students remain at home next week, we are not asking them to prepare any additional packets for students who are absent. We are staying consistent with the district’s attendance practice, which allows for class assignments missed during a student’s absence to be submitted within a reasonable time frame.

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