One Lowcountry school district will be last in state to return to full-time, in-person learning

Updated: Apr. 15, 2021 at 2:28 PM EDT
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - As we get closer to wrapping up the 2020-2021 school year, there are still some schools in South Carolina that have not resumed in-person learning full time, five days a week.

That means there are some students who have not stepped inside a school for more than a year.

One of the districts that is still is not learning in-person full-time is Colleton County.

Colleton County Schools Interim Superintendent John Tindal says he, like everyone else, never thought we were going into a pandemic when students were sent home last year.

“One of the blessings that we had was we did have computers,” Tindal says. “That helped us by having devices that we give to students individually.”

Tindal says they wanted to start the 2020-2021 school year fully virtual but that plan was not approved by the state education department. They have slowly worked their way back to offering in-person four days a week. But they’re still not full-time.

“What we were doing was working,” Tindal says. “And sometimes when what you’re doing is working, you’re not so quick to make a change,” Tindal explains.

In the last few weeks, the district’s board finally approved to return to in-person learning five days a week. But that won’t happen until May 3 - about a month and a half before school lets out for the summer. Tindal says it’s better late than never.

“It is never too late to do the right thing,” Tindal says. “I think opening the doors up to the fifth day certainly cannot hurt. I think that it will help those students.”

As of right now, the Colleton County school district has about 55% of their 5,100 students in virtual and about 45% in person. The CDC has updated it’s K–12 school guidance to reflect the latest science on physical distance between students in classrooms saying maintaining 3 feet of distance is safe compared to the previous 6 feet.

But Tindal says if all of their students decide they want to return in-person they probably wouldn’t be ready.

“We would still be working on our logistics, but we’ve done real well thus far,” Tindal says. “The 3 feet - we started out with that during the second semester. So, it is something that we can do. But I think we’re going to be challenged if we have all 5,000 plus students wanting to come back in person. I don’t know that we would be able to adhere to the 3-feet limit that they were talking about.”

Tindal says he knows some students will want to stay virtual, despite the option to come back full-time. A reason they are also working on some sort of permanent virtual program through the Low Country Education Consortium.

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