Sumter senators push back Governor McMaster’s plan to reopen schools

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The two Sumter State Senators say it’s critical to bring K-12 students back to in-person classroom instruction, but health professionals should make the decisions about when it should be happening, not the governor.

State Senator Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter, and Kevin Johnson, D-Manning, spoke on Thursday after Gov. Henry McMaster on Wednesday recommended that all public schools in the state open five days this fall by week for face-to-face teaching, regardless of the spread of COVID-19.

The Republican governor said it should be up to parents to decide whether to send students to in-person classes or let their children take online classes at home, which means schools should offer both options. He proposed the Tuesday after Labor Day, September 8, as the start date for public schools across the state to give districts more time to prepare, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.



State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, also an elected Republican, reportedly declined McMaster’s invitation to the press conference and later issued a statement saying her goal was to reopen schools five days a week “As safely and quickly as possible”. But she said the choice should be left to local school districts when it is safe.

McElveen and Johnson both said McMaster was off base with his recommendations to Spearman and the state should take the advice of medical professionals, not a politician or elected official, on when it is safe to return to classroom instruction in person.

Both senators referred to the governor’s decision in mid-March to close schools due to the spread of the virus and that current health conditions linked to COVID-19 cases are worse than they were. in March.

All school districts have switched to distance education, primarily through online education, for the last 2.5 months of last school year.

On March 15, the day McMaster announced it was closing schools until March 31, DHEC reported 12 new cases, according to state agency data. On March 24, when the governor closed schools until April, DHEC reported 42 new cases.

On July 15, when it said schools should reopen on September 8 for in-person learning five days a week, DHEC reported 1,850 new cases of the virus.

The two also agreed that everyone wants in-person instruction for the kids, but the safety issue just doesn’t allow it at this time. McElveen added that what he heard at McMaster’s press conference contained no clear plan.

“No one disputes the fact that we have a significant number of students in this state falling behind and some are totally missing, and it is terrible,” he said. “But when you sit there and say, ‘We’re going to go back to school and it’s going to happen five days a week, it’s going to happen in all 46 counties and 81 school districts,” I just think it’s not. realistic, and it’s not a plan. “



He added that everyone needs to adapt to the virus and be fluid, but a one-size-fits-all approach likely won’t work for everyone. The start of in-person instruction in schools may take place at different times in different parts of the state.

Logistics, resources and demographics are different in rural counties, such as Lee, Bamberg and Allendale counties, McElveen said, as opposed to counties like Charleston, Greenville and Lexington.

“For McMaster, giving that general instruction,” he said, “it’s just not well designed. What I mean is I don’t want to be presented as someone who says : “We should not put children back to school. We should do all we can to get them back to school. But this may be different depending on the resources of that school and the demographics of its service area. “

It’s unfortunate, he said, but we’re not living in a normal period right now, given the coronavirus.

Efforts to reach state representative Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, on Thursday failed.

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