FORT MILL, S.C. — Parents now have the chance to tell school leaders whether they feel comfortable having their children in classrooms full-time for the start of the next school year, as surveys are showing up in email inboxes.
Fort Mill, Rock Hill and Clover are among the school districts sending out family surveys to gauge concerns about COVID-19 and the safety of children in schools.
“Believe me a lot of us in the districts are parents and we know the struggles with that so we already feel the anxiety that parents have already felt,” says Joe Burke, spokesperson for the Fort Mill School District.
The school districts sent out the surveys while leaders continue poring over new recommendations from the state on the return of school.
“We asked parents to give us their comfort level,” says Burke. “We’ve got everything in our survey from a full return, full-blown, to returning with mask, to a/b days, to going back to e-learning for part of the year or e-learning for the entire year.”
District leaders also wanted to know about access to technology, internet access, child care options for children who are not able to return to school, and transportation concerns.
“It is something that we’re looking at very seriously,” Burke says.
The Accelerate Ed task force met for more than two months to establish guidelines for schools on everything from mask mandates and social distancing, to cleaning procedures, and bus capacity.
South Carolina’s Superintendent of Schools Molly Spearman says the state is allowing individual communities to decide whether in-person, remote learning or a hybrid system will work best based on the spread of the virus in their respective areas.
Spearman cautions however that the health data across South Carolina is moving in the wrong direction for a full return to school.
"If it continues on the same path that we’re on right now it’s going to be extremely difficult to go back face-to-face,” Spearman says. “We have got to change our ways, neighbors, we have got to do a better job.”
The task force is recommending that districts submit their back-to-school plans to families no later than 20 days before the first day of school.
Burke says Fort Mill is trying to get its plan to families before that date, acknowledging that 20 days does not give families much time to prepare or to adjust their schedules.
“It is a very challenging time that we’re putting a lot of input into to try to create the best scenario possible for our community,” Burke says. “We know it may not be what everybody feels should happen but it’s gonna be what we feel is the best scenario to meet everyone’s needs.”