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District 55 adds remaining schools to week’s closures

 • We will update this story as schedule changes are announced.

The last of District 55 schools were switched to eLearning for the remainder of this week, parents learned early afternoon Thursday in a mass-mailing from Supt. Ameca Thomas.

The decision gives district the chance to disinfect all schools during the long weekend, Thomas said, which had already included a federal holiday Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Only Waterloo, Gray court, E.B.Morse and Sanders Middle schools had remained open after Tuesday’s announcement. Laurens County School District 55 told students and teachers late Tuesday that the other schools will be going to e-learning beginning tomorrow (Thursday, Jan. 13) due to a spike in positive COVID-19 cases.

Eastside Elementary School in Clinton District 56 and Thornwell Charter School also announced plans to go to virtual learning.

“After reviewing the data from the past two days, consulting with principals, and looking at the trend for COVID-related activity in our schools, we have concluded that it has become increasingly difficult to operate some of our schools safely,” the announcement from District 55 read. “A few of our schools have reached a critical point where we cannot provide quality and safe educational experiences due to the high percentage of staff member absences required to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure. While we remain committed to providing in-person learning to all students, these recent developments in staff shortages have forced us to make the difficult decision to shift the following schools to eLearning beginning on Thursday, January 13, 2022.

Here are the schools in District 55 going to virtual learning:

  • Ford Elementary School

  • Gray Court-Owings School

  • Hickory Tavern School

  • Laurens Elementary School

  • Laurens Middle School

  • Laurens District 55 High School

Thornwell Charter’s announcement said the shift to eLearning is effective immediately with the goal to continue through the rest of this week. Like District 55, Thornwell plans to return after the MLK holiday.

“The school cannot maintain safe operations with the number of staff positive, symptomatic, and/or quarantined, the notice says. The building will be cleaned, and a decision on extending the eLearning will be made no later than Jan. 16 – after monitoring through the weekend,” Thornwell’s statement read.

District 56 leaders said almost 40% of staff members are out at Eastside Elementary, forcing its closure.

“The school cannot maintain regular operations safely, the District 56 announcement read. “It is shifting to eLearning for the remainder of this week. Return to in-person learning is scheduled for Jan. 18. Parents were to receive a phone call with more specific information.”

According to COVID-19 numbers for the week of Jan. 3 on the D56 dashboard, 56 students (2% of the population) and 23 staff members (4.67% of the teaching staff tested positive for COVID. Then, there were also 116 students and eight staff members in quarantine, according to the dashboard.

The COVID-19 Omicron variant is considered more highly transmissible but often less severe than other variants of the novel coronavirus.

Sports schedule changes

Thornwell also announced it has temporarily halted its athletic schedule during e-learning.

LDHS Athletic Director Tommy Spires said LDHS teams will compete as scheduled this week since the shift to e-learning was caused by staff shortages.

“We can still carry on as long as we don’t have positive cases among our (athletes),” Spires said via text.

• Laurens Academy also announced schedule changes this week due to COVID-19 in basketball.

Tonight’s girls game against Anderson Christian has been postponed with no makeup date immediately set.

Thursday’s schedule games against Fountain Inn Christian have been canceled and will not be made up. On Friday, LA is scheduled to play at Hampton Park with the girls tip at 7 p.m.

• Clinton High varsity girls and boys will travel to Union County tonight to make up basketball games originally scheduled for this past Friday but postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Yellowjackets’ program. Girls tip off at 6 p.m. with boys to follow.


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