By Ruben Lowman
Horry County Schools altered guidelines to their reopening plan last week as a result of an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases in the district, keeping hybrid learning until further notice.
The county has been following the guidelines laid out by Gov. Henry McMaster and his acceleratEd Task Force, which linked the instructional method for students with the amount of the spread of coronavirus throughout the state’s districts.
Previously, HCS had been posting updates to their case dashboard on their website after receiving weekly disease activity reports from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control detailing the level of the spread of the virus and the percentage of positive cases in each county.
Horry County had remained in the “medium spread” level for the entirety of the school year so far, but the past few weeks saw the level increase to “high”, prompting the distict’s board of education to take up a vote to clarify what will happen to the learning plan going forward.
Rick Maxey, HCS Superintendent, explained that, “I think that it’s time that we look at where we are with new information and start thinking about looking at things differently.”
The district will stay with hybrid learning for students enrolled in their “brick-and-mortar” learning plan despite the state’s original guidelines recommending a county with “high spread” level to revert fully to distance learning until the infection rate drops back down. The new guidelines for the county will have each individual school examined separately, as opposed to the plans that have applied universally within the entire district up to this point.
“Therefore, that means there won’t be any announcements of what Horry County Schools is doing next week, we know what it is,” Maxey said. “If you’re in the virtual program you know what you’re doing, you’re in virtual. For brick-and-mortar you’re in hybrid unless there is a problem and then we will respond immediately to that problem to move to distance ED to provide for the safety of students and employees.”
HCS voted 11-1 in favor to keep hybrid learning because the rate of infection within the schools has remained low, even amid an increase in the overall numbers for the entire county. “These aren’t Horry County Schools’ numbers, these test results that come up are positive test results that were verified by SCDHEC,” Maxey said.
“We don’t want to place anyone in jeopardy,” he continued. “If there is an instance where numbers look like there’s an uptick then we will respond appropriately, and deal with those areas as opposed to a system-wide shut down as far as distance ED is concerned.”