BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) – It has been a record week for the Beaufort County School District when it comes to COVID-19 cases.
More than 700 infections were reported and 2,700 students and teachers were quarantined in the last week.
While the county’s overall COVID numbers are down, this is a sign in schools many parents didn’t want to see. They brought questions to WSAV News 3, who took them straight to Superintendent Dr. Frank Rodriguez.
First, why would schools remain open even during a high time for COVID in classrooms?
“It is in the community, it’s all over the community,” Rodriguez said. “Has somebody tested positive in the school district who got it at a school? I’m sure that’s possible. But can they get it someplace else? That is true.”
He also pointed to studies that have proven students learn better by attending classes in person.
When asked about the number of teachers in quarantine, making some classes double or triple up, the superintendent said it’s not ideal but can still offer a good education.
“The advantage if you double up is you still have a teacher who is teaching the content area,” explained Rodriguez. “Or if we are pushing district personnel out to schools, then we are connecting them to specific content areas.”
The superintendent explained that district staff have been going out to schools to help with the shortages of teachers. He himself even went to teach at one point.
At least one teacher reached out to say she and several parents were not notified when a student in the class tested positive.
Rodriguez said, according to state protocol, letters do go out to the entire school and to anyone in the class that was a close contact, but not everyone in that class. He explained that anyone can and should contact their specific school leaders and find out what classroom may have been affected. They can tell a parent that — just not the exact student who tested positive for privacy reasons.
“I don’t think anything is hush-hush. We have valued our employees from the beginning,” Rodriguez said. “I myself have gone into classrooms to teach classes. We provided our employees with 10 COVID days they can use during the year, so I think we are taking care of our employees and certainly taking care of our teachers.”
The superintendent called the entire situation “challenging” but believes his staff has done the best job possible in making sure kids get a good education.
He said he’s also reached out to a medical professional at the Medical University of South Carolina and colleagues to get some advice or learn more about what other school systems are doing.
When asked about why there isn’t a mask policy for the district, Rodriguez said the school board addressed the issue earlier in the school year. They decided to not make it mandatory and said they will stick with that plan unless the situation gets worse.