Dr. Stanley Walsh

Dr. Stanley Walsh, a Clinton family physician, told the District 56 Board of Trustees Monday that it should “pivot” into a totally virtual learning environment for the Sept. 8 beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

“How are you going to keep, not just the children, but all of the shareholders of your district safe? You could ignore this information. Your governor has certainly given you permission to do so,” Walsh said in a 3-minute presentation, laced with information about the potentially deadly illness, COVID-19.

He outlined the ways South Carolina is classified as a high-risk coronavirus state, how the Laurens County Hospital has been called “a war zone” from patients being treated, how Self Regional in Greenwood has added an ICU wing to respond to a growing number of virus cases. He said in the absence of virtual school, the board must mandate strict adherence to a masks-wearing policy and “as much social distancing as possible.”

Walsh was the second individual in the past 4 called meetings of the board to express concerns about starting school in-person. Clinton High Graduate Patrick Nelson expressed similar sentiments on July 27. Normally, the District 56 Board would not be meeting at all in July and early August (because of vacations).

But Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields said the board has met the past 4 Monday evenings in a row, “to be as open as we can be.”

District 56 is following Gov. Henry McMaster’s recommendation to re-start public schools Sept. 8, both 5 days a week, in-person and with a virtual option for parents who want one. About 1/3 of D56’s 2,700 students have been enrolled in the Laurens County Virtual Academy.

For Walsh, that is the only option that makes sense now - there are/have been more than 18.5 Million Coronavirus/COVID-19 infections confirmed, worldwide. The United States, by far, leads the world in the infection numbers.

About opening schools in-person, the physician said, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

The board took no action following Walsh’s presentation.

On Wednesday, beginning at 5 am, District 56 will be featured on the WSPA-TV Morning Break, from the Clinton High School gym. The District Teacher of the Year and Support Person of the Year will be named in the 7:30 am segment.

The board watched a National Science Olympiad video in which a D56 graduate was named one of 5 National Scholarship winners. Team Clinton National Science Olympiad Member Tytajha Robinson is a Dr. Gerard J. Putz $10,000 scholarship winner; she will attend Wofford College.

The board saw an electro-statistic cleaning operation (tied to the COVID-19 in-school response) from representatives of SMO (Supreme Maintenance Organization, Inc.) out of Greensboro, NC. Founded in 1989, the company now is District 56’s Custodial Service Partner.

The board was told D56 has on order “an overabundant amount” of masks, clear face masks, face shields, and disinfectants for the schools, and is receiving 300 mobile “hot spots” for families who are in the virtual academy but do not have really good home internet.

Also, the district is partnering with the Clinton Family YMCA for its gym to become a 5 days a week “hot spot” classroom for students who cannot receive daily, at-home virtual learning assistance.

These could be families in which both parents work, but the parents do not feel comfortable with in-person instruction, the board was told. Monitors will supervise the students closely on their on-line lessons, and parents can provide learning assistance at home, at night.