No big changes in DCSD’s fall plan
By Bobby Bryant Editor
The Darlington County School District plans a return to school this fall that’s very much the same as the way the district just ended its regular COVID-cautious academic year. Under a “Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan” the district has submitted to the state, the 2021-22 school year will be built on a normal, five-day-a-week, face-to-face “model,” excepting several hundred students who will still attend the DCSD’s Virtual Academy from home. The DCSD plans to “encourage” students, employees and visitors to wear masks at this point, but will not mandate them now that Gov. Henry McMaster has issued executive orders making masks optional in S.C. schools. The only exception to that, at this point, will be in “health-care settings” at schools. The district plans to follow federal guidelines when it comes to wearing masks on school buses. Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires anyone riding on or driving a school bus to wear a mask. If the CDC drops that guideline, the school district will, too. As for social distancing, the DCSD currently plans to practice standard distancing, to discourage students from “congregating in groups” when they arrive at or leave school, and to promote “frequent handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer.” The district is also updating heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment and filters for cleaner air in general. As of now, the district plans to have custodians keep on cleaning door handles, sink handles and other “high-touch surfaces.” The DCSD has no plans to test students for COVID at schools unless ordered to do so (presumably by the state Education Department or the governor). “The DCSD believes testing for COVID-19 is the responsibility of parents,” the district’s plan says. The plan says: “In (the) DCSD, our students always come first. DCSD has taken and will continue to plan and act to ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students’ academic needs and students’ and staff social, emotional, mental-health needs, student health needs and student nutritional needs.” The district intends to launch “a district-wide/community-wide initiative in the fall” to help address the social and emotional needs of “DCSD schools and our greater community through outreach, partnerships and collaborative efforts of kindness,” the district’s plan states.