County schools may scale back reopenings
On July 13, the Darlington County school board and county education superintendent Tim Newman stood united behind the goal of reopening public schools Sept. 8, with in-person classes five days a week.
But it now appears that goal may be out of reach for the county school district, and school officials might have to scale down some of their hopes for a fall semester that would be as normal as possible given the massive dilemmas posed by COVID-19.
During a school board work session Monday night, officials discussed estimates that show there won’t be enough teachers to run in-person classes five days a week in the county’s middle and high schools while still maintaining a “social distance” of 6 feet around every student.
The district’s commitment to spreading out desks for a COVID-19 safety margin means much smaller classes per teacher. And even though 3,700 district students have enrolled in the district’s all-online, year-long Virtual Academy and won’t be attending classes in person, the district still expects more in-the-class students in middle and high schools than it has teachers to instruct them, while still maintaining a safe “social distance.”
One possible solution to the problem would be to have students divide their time between in-person classes and online instruction. Under this type of “hybrid” system, students might go to class Monday, Wednesday and Friday and stay home and take online classes Tuesday and Thursday, or some other variation of that. But it would mean giving up the district’s goal of in-person classes five days a week.
The school board will take up the matter again next week at another work session.