Greenville superintendent wants SC schools to remain closed. Decision is to come this week
Greenville County Schools Superintendent Burke Royster said he wants schools to remain closed for the rest of the school year.
In a statement emailed Monday, Royster said it will be impossible for students to properly socially distance within schools and on buses.
"Based on our current knowledge of the virus and the importance of maintaining social distancing at this time, I am strongly in favor of continuing eLearning for the rest of the school year rather than trying to reconvene in-person instruction," Royster said.
Royster's statement comes as Gov. Henry McMaster is expected to decide within the week whether to reopen schools this school year, according to a spokesperson for the state Department of Education.
"I appreciate our Governor making the difficult decision to transition public schools to eLearning on March 15, and I remain proud of Greenville County Schools’ response to this challenging situation. Being among the first entities closed by Executive Order, we would expect to be among the last to reopen," Royster said in the statement. "Based purely on mathematical calculations, not to mention the challenges of enforcing social distancing among our youngest students, it is impossible to properly practice social distancing in a K-12 setting or on buses."
The governor first ordered South Carolina's public schools and universities to close in mid-March in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Currently, schools are closed only through April 30, but state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman told Columbia television station WIS on Monday that a decision on the remainder of the year is expected later this week. Ryan Brown, a spokesperson for the state Department of Education, confirmed that officials anticipate the announcement within the week.
Brown said the department surveyed superintendents across the state to get their opinion on when schools should re-open, if they would be willing to share graduation contingency plans and if they would be willing to use funds from the CARES Act to host additional summer learning sessions.
Brown said a majority of superintendents said they would prefer for schools to remain closed for the rest of the school year. Brown also said most superintendents indicated they would be willing to share graduation contingency plans in case schools should remain closed, and they were also willing to have additional summer learning plans for students who need it.
The state department has encouraged districts to have a virtual or hybrid graduation ceremony even if schools remain closed, Brown said.
"Everyone is planning on doing some type of graduation ceremony, though it may be unorthodox," Brown said. "We've encouraged districts to hold some type of ceremony. What that may look like will depend on the district's capabilities."
Ariel Gilreath is a watchdog reporter focusing on education and family issues with The Greenville News and Independent Mail. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ArielGilreath.