County schools will stay closed another week
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
Darlington County public schools will remain closed until Jan. 25, school district officials have decided. In a statement issued Jan. 14, the county school district said that Education Superintendent Tim Newman and the school board had made the decision not to reopen Jan. 19 as originally planned because of the COVID-19 threat. All classes will be conducted online, as the district has done since Jan. 4. That was the date officials had hoped to reopen schools after Christmas break, but COVID caution canceled that plan. All sports remain on hold as well. The district will continue to serve meals this week from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. each day. Pick-up sites remain the same. At their Jan. 11 meeting, Newman and the county school board had agreed to wait until the end of the week before deciding whether to reopen schools Jan. 19. The COVID numbers fluctuate, Newman said. “In Darlington County, it’s up and down,” he said. And the rises and falls don’t necessarily reflect the state’s total numbers. Board member Charles Govan asked Newman about when and how the district’s teachers can get vaccinated for COVD-19. Newman said teachers are in the next “group” designated by DHEC, but it’s not clear when those vaccinations will begin or who will administer the vaccines. Govan suggested vaccinations for teachers should be a factor in deciding when schools reopen. “We ought to be in a position to at least offer it to them” before returning to face-to-face education, he said. Board member Wanda Hassler disagreed. And Newman noted: “The issue, Mr. Govan, is that could be two months from now.” Board member Leigh Anne Kelley, who was participating by video, pointed out that the district has been operating without the vaccine all along. Govan emphasized that he wasn’t arguing that schools should not reopen until all teachers have been vaccinated, only that the teachers should first have the opportunity to get the vaccine before returning to class. But other board members said just giving them the opportunity could mean months of waiting. In other business Jan. 11, the board: — Learned that about 700 of the students who opted for the DCSD’s Virtual Academy will be returning to “face-to-face” learning after the schools reopen. The Virtual Academy is a year-long, online-only education system, but the district recently gave students and their parents a chance to switch back if they wanted to. — Was told that as a result of the confusion caused by the 10-month-long COVID-19 ordeal, the district has “lost” about 500 students. Some may have moved; some may have switched to private schools; some have essentially fallen off the radar. This has been a common problem among school districts across the country. Newman said he hoped the DCSD could regain many of these students once the COVID crisis has passed. — Swore in one newly elected board member and three returning members. The new board member is Lucas Reed of Mechanicsville (District 2), who claims the seat held for many years by Connell Delaine. Delaine died before the November elections were held. The returning board members are Warren Jeffords (District 4), Charles Govan (District 6), and Jamie Morphis (District 8). — Elected officers for the next two years. Jeffords was re-elected as chairman, board member Thelma Dawson was re-elected as vice-chairman and board member Wanda Hassler was re-elected as secretary.