Some retailers reopen, but schools stay closed
By Bobby Bryant
Local retailers are starting to revive after being shut down for weeks because of the coronavirus crisis, but all public schools in Darlington County and the rest of South Carolina will stay closed for the rest of the academic year.
Last week, Gov. Henry McMaster loosened restrictions on some types of retailers, but also ordered that S.C. public schools – closed since mid-March – remain shut down for the rest of the school year, which is June in most districts.
State officials are hoping that students can go back to their schools in August. State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said she’s creating a task force aimed at helping ensure an August restart.
In Darlington County and most other school districts, classes have continued by computer, and that method of online learning will keep going through the end of the academic year.
Spearman said last week that most students using online learning seem to be doing well, but some have struggled. Darlington County school board members have been getting similar reports: Some students seem to love it; others are floundering.
Still, Spearman said, “In this very historic pandemic, we have been able to carry on this very good instruction.”
During the last two weeks of school, Spearman said, teachers and staff members will be allowed to close out the year as they normally would, although “social distancing” will have to be practiced. She and McMaster are both encouraging school districts to find ways to hold some type of graduation ceremonies for seniors; Darlington County Education Superintendent Tim Newman has also said he intends to find some way for graduating seniors to have their moment in the spotlight.
Meanwhile, McMaster gave some types of S.C. retailers a break last week by allowing them to reopen, with restrictions.
McMaster reopened public access to the state’s beaches and rescinded an executive order that had shut down many retail businesses. McMaster’s restrictions on restaurants – take-out orders only, no dining inside – remain in place.
McMaster on April 20 said these types of retailers can open again:
— Furniture and home-furnishings stores
— Clothing, shoe and clothing-accessory stores
— Jewelry, luggage and leather goods stores
— Department stores, with the exception of hardware and home-improvement stores
— Sporting-goods stores
— Book, craft and music stores
— Flea markets
— Florists and flower stores
The restrictions mainly involve “social distancing” rules and limiting how many customers can be in a store at one time.
McMaster’s latest order says these stores that are reopening must operate at no more than 20 percent occupancy or five customers per 1,000 square feet, whichever is less. Businesses must not knowingly let customers congregate within 6 feet of one another (excluding families), and businesses must follow guidelines set down by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.