ROCK HILL, S.C. — Students in Rock Hill officially started the school year on Tuesday, going back into the building for the first time since the coronavirus shut down schools in March. Schools are reopening under a hybrid plan, so only half of the students are in the building at once while the others do virtual learning.
Rock Hill School District is one of the last in the area to go back so they had a few extra weeks to keep an eye on what was happening in other schools and prepare. Still, it will be a year defined by uncertainty.
“Never have we had to prepare for a year like this,” Superintendent Bill Cook said in a pre-recorded message to families.
Students will go for in person learning 2 or 3 days a week, class sizes a fraction of what they typically would be. The rest of the week, they’ll be at home.
Some parents concerned about the impact that will have on their child's education.
“He’s not really going to learn anything, he's more hands on,” Chris Louthan said about his first grade son.
When they're in the classroom, students have to social distance and keep their masks on. They are able to take them off outside, for a small and spread out P.E. class.
All of the changes are an adjustment for teachers, students and parents.
“It was a little bit scary at first but after they explained the process of how they're going to try and keep everything sanitized and keep the kids separated I was a little bit more comfortable with it,” said Markita McCray, as she dropped her daughter off at India Hook Elementary School.
Families had the choice to do an all virtual option. Regardless of the metrics, they have to stick with it for the entire school year. 6,700 students are enrolled, which is 40% of the district's total enrollment.
There are 45 virtual students to 1 teacher, district officials say even though it is much larger than what you would see in an actual classroom, that is an appropriate and standard class size for virtual learning. Still, they are looking to hire more teachers.
“It’s not that we're starting the first day of school without classrooms or students without teachers, but we'd like to reduce those numbers where we can,” said Mychal Frost, a district representative.
If there is a positive coronavirus case within a school building, they will do contact tracing and anyone who was in close contact with that staff member or student will have to quarantine.
Free meals are available to students who qualify. Virtual families can pick them up and those doing the hybrid will take home meals at the end of their in-person days. If they're doing the hybrid, on their in-person days, they'll take home a few days’ worth of food to have for their virtual days.
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