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'We must give parents the option' | South Carolina schools must reopen 5 days, governor says

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said districts should return to in-person learning 5 days a week or give parents the option to enroll children in remote classes.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced Wednesday that all schools across the state should begin forming reopening plans that will send kids back to school five days a week or give parents the option to enroll their children in virtual learning if they're uncomfortable with COVID-19 concerns.

McMaster said the state would not approve any plans filed by a district that doesn't give parents a choice over sending kids back to school. 

"We need to do everything to get our kids back in the classroom," McMaster said. "We must do it safely, we must do it carefully, but we must do it."

"Today, I am calling on all school districts to give parents the option to send kids five days a week or keep them at home and learn virtually," McMaster said. "We must give parents the choice. This is the only thing we are asking the districts today: to give parents the choice."

During Wednesday's briefing, McMaster also suggested schools reopen September 8, the day after Labor Day. The governor explained that would give districts time to implement new routines, class schedules, bus routes and more details for the upcoming year.

"Schools must have face-to-face learning," McMaster said. "If kids fall behind, they may never catch up and we may have a generation lost."

On Tuesday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced that students would be able to return to the classroom this year but it's going to look a lot different. Schools will be required to provide masks, implement social distancing measures and have remote learning for families who aren't comfortable sending their children back to school for in-person learning. 

Similar to North Carolina, the Palmetto State was looking at three options for reopening schools, with remote learning, in-person classes and a mix of both on the table. 

He has maintained that it's important for schools to reopen with in-person learning, despite South Carolina's spike in COVID-19 cases. 

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Under the AccelerateED task force guidelines, the 39 counties that have highest spread levels of coronavirus should remain fully virtual. Counties with medium spread levels are recommended to follow the hybrid plan of some in-person classes and some remote learning. McMaster said it's vital for students to return to the classroom for their sake, as well as for parents and teachers. 

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"It's not healthy for the children to be out of school for emotional reasons," McMaster said.