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COVID-19 continues to complicate school plans

A Laurens County School District 56 leader said Tuesday that the district has to be ready to adapt for whatever happens as the 2020-21 school year draws closer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brenda Schrantz, District 56 assistant superintendent for instruction, spoke in response to state leaders who cast the normal beginning of the school year this August in doubt if COVID-19 cases continue to rise across South Carolina.

“I think we have to be flexible and react to what’s happening in our community and across our state,” Schrantz said. “We have to be prepared to go from one form of instruction to another in a moment’s notice.”

New statewide records for confirmed COVID-19 cases have been set over the past week as totals grew to more than 26,000 cases across the state, which could delay or cancel the beginning of the normal school year with in-classroom instruction.

“If it continues on the same path we’re on right now it’s going to be extremely difficult for us to be able to go back face-to-face,” S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said at a Monday press conference. “Hopefully we’ll see a change and things will start decreasing.”

Spearman said teaching in person is preferred, especially for younger students, but the safety of all trumps in-person instruction.

“Certainly, if the virus is running rampant, we’re not going to sacrifice the safety of our students and our teachers just to say ‘we’re going back to school,’” Spearman said. “We’re going to do it safely.”

District 56 plans to convene a 40-person task force composed of educators and parents Thursday for an initial meeting to consider the district’s options for reopening in August.

“We have a lot to consider, and it seems very overwhelming,” Schrantz said. “I think AccelerateED did a great job of working to ensure the safety and security of our students, teachers and parents.”

The 13-member AccelerateED committee met this past Friday to finalize a report on the best ways to reopen K-12 classrooms across the state.

When schools were closed by Gov. Henry McMaster in mid-March, there were 28 cases of COVID-19 in the state.

But much has changed since then, and Schrantz said things could continue to change daily and local school districts must be ready to adapt.

“We have to be prepare to go from one form of instruction to another in a momen’s notice,” she said.

Officials from District 55 were unable to be reached for this story.

Schrantz said local educators and parents have learned from their trial run of remote learning from March through May that completed the 2019-20 academic year.

“At least now we’ve had some experiences and know some positives,” she said. “We know now of the things we didn’t have inplace that we desperately needed. Now, we have some time to plan with the community on what did and didn’t work.”

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