South Carolina requires 5-day face-to-face option in all schools

Education

HAMPTON, S.C. (WSAV) – Starting Monday, all South Carolina school districts will offer face-to-face instruction five days a week.

The General Assembly passed joint resolution S.704 on Wednesday, also requiring in-person learning to remain an option every weekday in the next school year.

Still, it does not prevent a school district from offering a virtual option in addition to face-to-face instruction.

Gov. Henry McMaster signed off on the resolution Thursday, saying it’s “a shame it’s taken this long.” He said since mid-July, he’s been asking the General Assembly to make this move.

“It sends a very strong message of what is expected in education in South Carolina,” McMaster said.

Almost all of the 79 school districts in the Palmetto State are already offering in-person learning five days a week, and none are in virtual-only instruction.

“I’m very very thankful for all the teachers, principals, superintendents who have been doing this for a while, who really went against the odds, and who’ve been there five days a week,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman.

According to the South Carolina Department of Education, three districts in hybrid in-person instruction — including Hampton 2, locally — will offer face-to-face instruction as an option come Monday.

“This will not be a hardship or affect the daily education in any way,” Hampton 2 Superintendent Martin Wright told News 3. “It is a natural transition for the district and the students.”

Wright said Hampton 2 never transitioned to a virtual-only model but remained in a hybrid schedule due to concerns over the COVID-19 infection rate in schools and across Hampton County.

“We support the initiative,” the superintendent added. “Students are better for it.”

The resolution also removes a pay cap for teachers who retired on or before April 1, 2019. A retiree could be hired and earn up to $50,000 without it impacting their monthly retirement allowance.

“Today, I’d like to implore our retired teachers, any other folks who would like to, come and help us,” Spearman said, adding, “You would never do more important work than this.”

Further, only under “extreme and unavoidable circumstances” can any teacher provide in-person and virtual instruction simultaneously. And the resolution requires additional compensation to that teacher.

South Carolina leaders say the challenge now is addressing pandemic learning loss. But Spearman and McMaster agree it can be done safely in the classroom.

“Welcome back students,” the education superintendent said. “And to the parents, I implore you to please consider sending your children back.”

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