South Carolina school districts may soon have to provide parents the option of sending their children back to school in person all five days a week under legislation passed by the House.
The House voted 106-7 on Wednesday requiring every district to return in person all five days week by April 26.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, pushed the measure hoping to get all schools open five days a week by April 12.
Currently, 1,024 schools are back fully face-to-face and 236 schools are in person two to four days a week.
Only one school is still teaching remotely, according to the South Carolina Department of Education.
However, the state education department also said that 22 school districts will move to full five day in-person instruction by April 19.
“We feel very strongly about getting our students back face-to-face safely and we have schools in districts that haven’t been offering any face-to-face, so at least this would emphasize they would need to offer face-to-face and for those (students) who choose to stay virtual, then there’s that opportunity too,” said state Rep. Rita Allison, R-Spartanburg, who chairs the House Education and Public Works Committee.
Schools closed, pushed to reopen
In March of last year, the governor closed schools to slow the spread of COVID-19.
As the new school year began, Gov. Henry McMaster called on schools to reopen and offer five day, in-person instruction. He has repeated the call for many months, arguing the virus does not spread in schools and adequate personal protective equipment and funding is available to keep the learning environment safe.
Now the House is pushing to have the requirement put in place by April 26, giving school districts time to prepare.
But opponents of the bill, including the S.C. School Board Association, worry the bill eliminates school districts’ ability to be flexible during the pandemic.
Schools also are concerned about whether buildings have enough space for students to adequately spread out.
Greenville County Schools, the state’s largest school district, has kindergarten through eighth grade students attending five days in person. However, students in the district’s high schools only attend in person three to four days a week in order to cap occupancy at 75% to maintain proper social distancing, under guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and Department of Health and Environmental Control.
“Under the CDC’s newest guidelines, GCS is not currently eligible to return 100% of high school students to full-time in-person school because our community’s COVID incidence rate remains high, where it has been since Oct. 15, 2020,” Greenville School District Superintendent Burke Royster said in memo to school board members. “This bill does not acknowledge that conflict or provide alternative solutions.”
Greenville County Schools spokesman Tim Waller the district wants all students back in person full time, but with the caveat of, “as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
Senate Majority Leader Massey, who has now pushed two pieces of legislation to require schools re-open to five days, said he was disappointed with the delay in the House.
Massey said he is disappointed the House didn’t move the bill quicker through the chamber.
“To some extent you have to give districts notice of when this has to happen,” Massey said. “We’ve been talking about it a couple of weeks, so they all knew the week of the 12th would be a possibility. If you start changing it up on them, you can’t do it at the last moment, and say ‘hey we want you to go back tomorrow.’”
Pushing to get schools open 5 days a week comes as vaccine administration ramped up with people 16 and older eligible. Money also has been distributed to schools for personal protective equipment to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Source by news.yahoo.com