School District cautious about new COVID guidelines

Tim Newman DCSD Superintendent. FILE PHOTO

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have relaxed their guidelines for COVID-19 safety in classrooms, but Darlington County Education Superintendent Tim Newman isn’t ready yet to embrace them. The CDC now says that students in a classroom can sit 3 feet apart, without plastic barriers on or around their desks, as long as they wear face masks. The Darlington County School District has been using a “3 feet with barriers and masks” policy in its classrooms, but Newman says he’s not eager to push that by getting rid of the barriers yet. “We are in the minority as far as having barriers and 3 feet” in classrooms, he told the county school board March 22 during a work session. Newman said: “The new physical distancing (the CDC) just put in place is that students in a classroom can be 3 feet social-distanced vs. 6 feet, which is what they were recommending before. With masks. … You can be 3 feet if you’re wearing a mask (under the new CDC guidelines). You can be 3 feet only in a classroom, nowhere else in a school building as far as common areas. “At first, when I heard the information, I thought it was going to be significantly changing things immediately,” Newman said. But now, he said, he’s not so sure. “I don’t think we jump too soon, but I also don’t think we wait to jump. I just think we’re going to need a little bit more information” about this and time to think about it, he said. “I think we have to make sure that everybody is comfortable getting to that point, including myself and you as a board.” Newman said COVID vaccinations, which have already begun for teachers and staff in county public schools, “are helping our adults immensely, I truly believe that. I think that, for our own numbers with our employees, that we are going to continue to see (positive cases) decline because more and more people are getting vaccinated. “But our kids aren’t getting vaccinated. And they’re the ones now that are going to bear the brunt of the spread of COVID.” For example, Newman said, on the day of the board meeting (March 22), the school district had no adult COVID-19 cases and no adult quarantines. But over the weekend, some students tested positive. “Are there a lot of them? No. Not compared to what we were dealing with a month and a half ago. Are there more than there were two weeks ago? Yes.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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