By Ruben Lowman
Students in Horry County Schools actively enrolled in the brick-and-mortar learning plan will have until next Tuesday, Dec. 22, to change to virtual learning for the second semester of this school year.
The district began sending emails to parents and guardians of students who are currently in the traditional in-person classroom setting this Tuesday, Dec. 15, that will allow them to alter their lesson plan for the course of the remainder of this year. The email will provide families with an opportunity to alter the lesson plan through a link to a commitment form that will lock them in to virtual learning for the entirety of the second semester beginning on Feb. 1, and will remain active for families to fill out until midnight next Tuesday.
The district also announced that it will not be taking part in Gov. Henry McMaster’s rapid COVID-19 testing program that is set to begin this month as positive cases have begun to tick back up in the area.
HCS Chairman Ken Richardson offered the explanation that the district was not given ample time to implement the testing program and was not consulted on the rollout of the program either. “Nobody knew the governor was going to do this. I don’t think he really asked any of the schools about it,” Richardson said.
The governor signed an executive order last month outlining the coronavirus testing program that will be conducted by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) throughout schools statewide, and allows parents and guardians to make the decision of whether their children are tested or not.
“Right now, too many South Carolina parents are having to choose between their jobs and their children because they aren’t being given an option to send their children to school for in-person instruction,” Governor McMaster said. “School districts throughout our state have shown that we can safely educate our children in the classroom, and these tests will give students, teachers and faculty members another layer of defense against the COVID-19 virus.”
HCS officials said that conducting the testing programs in district facilities would add undue strain on the school nurses and would require more space than is available. District superintendent Rick Maxey said that having the tests administered in the school buildings could potentially lead to families of symptomatic students sending their children to school solely to get them tested, which could increase the possibility of having more infected individuals in classes.
Currently, North Myrtle Beach High School has five students and one member of staff infected with COVID-19, and has 20 faculty members in quarantine. North Myrtle Beach Middle School has two active staff and one student case, with eight faculty members currently in quarantine. North Myrtle Beach’s three elementary schools, Ocean Drive, Waterway and Riverside, have a combined total of one active staff and one student case, and seven staff members self-quarantining. Loris Elementary School currently has two staff members and three students who are positive, and a total of 16 faculty members in quarantine.
District officials said they will continue to partner and aid DHEC in carrying out different programs, and Maxey said DHEC will have access to county school facilities for testing throughout the holiday season. Superintendent Maxey also said that HCS is still installing plexiglass barriers in the elementary schools in the district and will remain in hybrid learning until the installation process is complete.