Beaufort County School Board approves calendar with delayed start date

The Beaufort County Board of Education approved Superintendent Frank Rodriguez’s recommendation that the district develop a revised 2020-21 school calendar that would delay the first day of school from the current start date of August 17 until September 8.

Increasing numbers of South Carolina school districts have been exploring the idea of delaying their start dates until after Labor Day as COVID-19 infection rates surge across the state. Gov. Henry McMaster today endorsed a September 8 start date during a news conference in Columbia.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported more than 2,200 new confirmed infections statewide on Tuesday, the second-highest one-day total since the pandemic began four months ago. DHEC reported 1,850 new cases today.

The state agency’s weekly county-by-county metrics measuring COVID-19 infection rates have rated Beaufort County “High” in all three rating categories for three consecutive weeks. Since the pandemic began, nearly 2,100 infections and 24 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 in Beaufort County.

“Unfortunately, the situation with COVID-19 is not getting better, it’s getting worse,” Rodriguez said. “All of us understand the importance of resuming face-to-face instruction, but many of our parents have expressed concern and hesitation about doing so under current conditions. We also have significant numbers of classroom teachers and school staff who are frightened about the dangers posed to themselves and their families.”

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our students and staff. I cannot in good conscience commit to a reopening plan that would knowingly put them in harm’s way. If COVID-19 conditions continue to worsen, we may need to rethink our reopening strategy. It’s entirely possible that we could start the year with all students learning virtually. We will continue to monitor DHEC’s weekly metrics and guidance to inform our decisions and keep everyone safe.”

On Monday, parents of the school district’s 22,000 students began completing online registration for their children and requesting either face-to-face or online learning. Rodriguez said parents should still state their preference when registering their children for the new school year.

“We need to know parents’ preferences so we’ll be ready to roll with both options when it’s safe to do so.”

The district’s reopening plan will be released this Friday, July 17.

In-person academic recovery camps for students have been postponed until July 20. They will now be conducted completely online. Parents have already been notified.

Also today, the S.C. High School League Executive Committee decided to move the start of fall sports competition until September because of the pandemic. The SCHSL’s plan pushes the start of practices from July 30 to Aug. 17, with games starting for football four weeks later.

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