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Lexington- Richland School District Five votes to return middle and high schools to virtual learning

Irmo, SC (Paul Kirby) 12/03/2020 - The school board of Lexington-Richland School District Five held another special called meeting Wednesday night at the District Office in Irmo. At the end of that long meeting, the board voted 6 to 1 to switch the district’s middle and high schools back to the virtual learning model.

School Superintendent Christina Melton had requested the district be allowed to make this change at a meeting Monday after concerns grew about the dangers of the coronavirus’ “second wave” currently impacting the nation. After listening to Melton's proposal during that meeting, the board voted against the switch. Those who voted against the move said they wanted more data specific to the schools of the Irmo, Chapin, and Ballantine areas that make up Lexington-Richland District Five.

After the first request was turned down by the board on Monday, an inordinate amount of faculty members called out of work forcing the district to suddenly shut down Chapin, Irmo, and Dutch Fork High Schools Tuesday. Students had to return to the virtual learning model that day. The district cited safety concerns as the primary reason they closed those schools. Administrators felt that without an acceptable amount of faculty members on campus, they could not guarantee the safe operations of their schools.

At the Wednesday night meeting, Melton made a much more detailed presentation about the data that was used to make her original recommendation to return to virtual learning. At that point, a vote was taken, and Melton did receive authorization to do that.

This change only impacts the middle and high schools. The lower schools in most districts have been using more face to face instruction for some time. Administrators have said that younger students are much easier to control because of their class structure and age.

The change will take effect on Monday, December 7th, 2020 and will continue until students return from their winter breaks in early January. The board will, however, hold another meeting in mid December to receive and review updated information and at that meeting, may need to make additional changes after the first of the year.

Board Chair Jan Hammond, a career educator in Lexington District Two, was against removing the students from the classroom and returning to a virtual setting. She said Monday her years of experience had taught her that the best place for students to learn was in a classroom with a teacher present. Although Hammond is a supporter of a full five-day face to face instruction schedule, after seeing Melton’s presentation Wednesday , she was willing to compromise.

Feelings in Lexington and Richland counties are much like emotions across the nation. Some feel like in person learning should be curtailed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among students and from students to faculty members.

Another very passionate crowd feels like allowing students to return to more in person learning is paramount to their success. They too cite other problems with virtual learning like children being left at home with little or no supervision, mental health, and nutritional problems.

Many other school districts in the Midlands have been hesitant to switch their secondary schools back to face to face. They are making any changes at a cautionary pace so that they will not experience what occurred in District Five. An administrator in another Midland’s district recently said, “We do not want to take one step forward and then have to step back. Those types of actions are what causes confusion and angst. These frequent changes can cause ‘COVID fatigue’ where people begin to take unnecessary chances with the public’s health. When we do make the move to face to face learning, we want to make that transition successful; We want to see it stick.”


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