FORT MILL, S.C. — South Carolina students have completed two weeks of school now, and since day one, there have been thousands of students just in the greater Charlotte area alone that have tested positive or been forced to quarantine.
It has been a rough start to the year here in Fort Mill -- they’ve had classes quarantine, an entire school go virtual. Some of the parents of kids in those classes tell WCNC Charlotte they're concerned about what the future holds.
"I never felt the same fear that I felt on day one of dropping off at my daughter at school," mother Eliza Zanni-James said. "Like I already knew what would happen."
After a year of virtual learning, Zanni-James's daughter was so excited to go back to school in person this year. A 6th grader at forest creek middle school in Fort Mill, she wore two masks, plus a face shield, and even ate lunch outside.
She caught COVID-19 before the end of the first week.
"As soon as I put her in their care she got sick -- and not because she didn’t do what she needed to do but because they sat her next to a kid who was unmasked and COVID-positive," Zanni-James said.
COVID-19 spread so quickly through Forest Creek Middle School that the Fort Mill School District shut the school down.
With masks optional across South Carolina, COVID-19 dashboards are lighting up with thousands of cases of kids who are testing positive or in quarantine.
Among those kids: both of Jen Callahan’s two kids.
"Both of my kids have been exposed," Callahan said. "They’re not considered close contacts but have been exposed, so I’ve kept them home the past few days while we wait for COVID testing."
In response to the climbing COVID-19, cases Fort Mill introduced new school safety measures this week. Masks are still optional, but lunch is now in the classroom, shared recess is stopping, visitors are no longer allowed, and large-scale events like open houses are canceled.
Callahan said she is grateful for the additional precautions, but believes more adjustments should have happened sooner
"This is a public health issue and my kids are not in school right now because of a breakdown in public health strategy," she said.
Zanni-James said her daughter is doing better now and hasn't shown symptoms for a few days. She is still in quarantine, though. Zanni-James said she doesn’t know how she’ll be able to send her children back.
"My trust for the Fort Mill School District is irretrievably broken," Zanni-James said.