Without a key strategy to fight COVID-19 - requiring the wearing of masks - schools in Clinton are transitioning to eLearning until after the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.
Eastside Elementary is closed, and is going to eLearning, according to District 56. Thornwell Charter School also is closing, with on-line learning.
Both statements said it was a very difficult decision to make - because of parents' child-care concerns. A State Budget Proviso, which carries the weight of state law, passed by a majority of the State Legislature, says masks wearing cannot be required by schools with the schools risking the loss of state funding. It was passed during a lull in the Covid pandemic, now close to entering its 3rd year.
Mask-wearing is a proven deterrent to the fast-moving COVID-19 virus, now in its Omicron variant. Schools also are not allowed to require vaccinations. South Carolina has experienced 1,035,256 Covid infections since the state's first case was detected March 6, 2020.
In South Carolina, 14,803 people have died from Covid.
Thornwell Charter's notice says the shift to eLearning will be effective immediately with the goal to continue through Jan. 15, and return to classes Jan. 18. No school related activities or sports will be allowed.
The school cannot maintain safe operations with the number of staff positive, symptomatic, and/or quarantined, the notice says. The building will be cleaned, and a decision on extending the eLearning will be made no later than Jan. 16 - after monitoring through the weekend.
Almost 40% of staff members are out at Eastside Elementary, District 56's announcement says.
The school cannot maintain regular operations safely, the announcement says. It is shifting to eLearning for the remainder of this week. Return to in-person learning is scheduled for Jan. 18. Parents were to receive a phone call with more specific information, the announcement says.
Thorough cleaning will be done in the building "to ensure that it is ready for the return of students on Tuesday, January 18th," the announcement says.
The Week of Jan. 3 Covid numbers on the D56 dashboard indicates that 56 students - 2% of the population - and 23 staff - 4.67% of the population - were positive for Covid. There were 116 students and 8 staff quarantining, the dashboard figures show.
The District 56 Board of Trustees next regular meeting will be Jan. 24, at Clinton High School.
Laurens District 55 offered free rapid tests for students and staff with symptoms, at the District Office today (Jan. 11). The testing ended at 1 pm.