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A third option for the re-opening of public schools (Sept. 8) in District 56 has emerged from a board meeting Monday night. For the fifth Monday in a row, the Board of Trustees of District 56, Clinton-Joanna-Cross Hill, has met to receive administration information related to the on-going Coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis.

Five of the seven board members attended, and member Dr. Patsy Sadler suggested adding a “hybrid model” discussion to the agenda. Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Brenda Schrantz made the administrative report in the absence of Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields who was ill. The board also heard about SC DHEC protocols for guidance and testing/removing students and staff in case of COVID-19 symptoms.

“The less we populate our schools, the lower our transmission rate,” Sadler said. Hybrid has half the student body in-school two days and the other half on two other days, with one virtual day for everyone. Schrantz said, just like with homework, teachers will have to “unteach” incorrectly done assignments, and that is more difficult the fewer times they see their students in person. Board Chairman Jim Barton said even so, “hybrid” would be a useful option in case of an infections outbreak.

“If our only recourse is to default to eLearning,” Barton said, “that would be a failure on our part.”

About 1/3 of District 56’s 2,700 students will take a virtual option, through the Laurens County Virtual Academy. For the 2/3 attending in-school, five days a week face to face instruction, larger classroom spaces in District 56 schools mean more chances to spread out, Schrantz said. Wearing masks and social distancing are two medically recommended ways to slow down the spread of the airborne, potentially deadly Coronavirus/COVID-19.

Gov. Henry McMaster has recommended five days a week in-school instruction with a virtual option starting on Sept. 8. State Superintendent Molly Spearman has approved all districts in the state re-opening plans. SC public schools have been closed since March 17.

Re-opening is a moving target. Greenville County has a color-coded, hybrid-type model for its re-opening, with one day in-school instruction during the first week. Spartanburg District 7 will go to an all-virtual opening at one of its schools (McCracken Middle) after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

The District 56 Board of Trustees also heard about SC DHEC guidelines for guidance, and how students and staff will be temperature-tested in schools and what happens to them if they become ill. Middle and high school students in District 56 will be required to wear masks in-school – elementary students will wear masks in common areas and can remove them for in-class assignments and reading with all desks at least 6 ft apart and during recess. Schrantz said elementary principals are looking at how to structure the school day so there is more recess.

The D56 Board could meet next week (likely Monday) to look at a hybrid model. Aug. 24 is the Board’s normal, monthly meeting date – meetings are 6 pm (and sometimes 7:30) in the Clinton High School auditorium. The district provides masks for people attending its board meetings.