School & District Management

S.C. District’s Decision to Go Virtual Following a COVID Outbreak Sparks Angry Protest

By Lyn Riddle, The State (Columbia, S.C.) — August 17, 2021 2 min read
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About 100 parents and children protested the Pickens County School District’s decision to close school and teach remotely outside the district office Monday morning.

The district’s board decided on Friday that a dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among students and employees merited at least a week of remote learning.

On Monday, parents took turns speaking about the need for face-to-face class. The protest scene was broadcast online by WYFF television station.

One mother said virtual school last year hurt her relationship with her daughter.

“It’s not my job to be a teacher of academics,” she said.

At one point more than a dozen people, including children, rushed the doors and windows of the district office holding their signs and shouting, “We want school.” They covered all the doors and windows with their signs.

“Let’s find another window,” one woman shouted, as a handful of children hurried around the side of the building.

“Keep it polite. Don’t touch the windows,” a woman said.

Another woman knocked repeatedly on the front door and stood resolutely, staring into the office.

Yet another woman said, “They ain’t going to come out unless we make them come out.”

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Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, center, joins with students at Lehman High School for a roundtable discussion about the COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in New York.
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Mark Lennihan/AP

At least one Pickens County sheriff’s deputy stood by.

A group started a petition calling for the district to reopen schools. By 10 a.m. Monday, more than 4,000 people had signed it.

“Before 2020, people got sick, went to a doctor, stayed home, and got better. It was normal life. Now that the world is so scared of germs, it’s keeping our children from being able to learn and grow and be able to reach their full potential,” the petition states.

A spokesman for the Pickens County School District could not be reached for comment.

On Friday, after nine days of school, 163 Pickens County students had tested positive, one was hospitalized, and 634 students were in quarantine. Also as of Friday, 26 employees had tested positive, and four had been hospitalized in the last month. Thirty employees are quarantined.

All Pickens County schools are closed and all school activities are canceled through Friday. District officials said they would announce plans for next week by Thursday.

“We have learned in the first nine days that we are dealing with a very different challenge than last year,” the district said in a statement. “Currently, in our state and county, the coronavirus Delta variant is spreading rampantly.”

Copyright (c) 2021, The State (Columbia, S.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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