Horry County Board of Education Chairman Ken Richardson took to social media Thursday night via a Facebook Live video from Lucky Dog Productions to answer some urgent questions from families about reopening school.
"My goal is to make this a successful school year. I can't tell you the keys to success, but I can tell you the keys to failure. That's to try and make everybody happy. We're not going to make everybody happy," Richardson told Lucky Dog Productions host Jack Murphy.
Richardson said the board has to notify parents 20 days in advance of when school will start, and he said that in order for the board to make the best decision, they need more time.
"I'm going to ask the board to change the school start date to the Tuesday after Labor Day [Sept. 8]. I know this is not going to be a popular decision with some people," he said. "The staff can make the days work out. In the last three years, we haven't had a normal year, every year is something."
This Monday night, Richardson said, a special called meeting of the Board of Education will take place at 6 p.m. to go over the results of the recent parent surveys regarding school opening options. Over 22,000 responses were catalogued.
"That's a great return. That goes to show you right there how important this is to people. There's nothing more precious to anybody than their child," Richardson said.
He said he decided to go through Facebook Live to give an update because there is a lot of fear out there, and a lot of unknowns.
"None of us have ever dealt with this before. You can't prepare for this," Richardson said.
He said he wants to see Horry County school children back in the classroom five days a week with a teacher in front of them, but that safety is the number one issue.
He plans to spend the first month back visiting a school each day "from bell to bell".
"I'm going to put my money where my mouth is. When I send the kids back to school, I'm going to be there with them. I can't ask people to do that if I'm not willing to do it myself," Richardson said.
Host Jack Murphy asked Richardson if he felt pressure from President Donald Trump and his recent statements regarding how children should be back in school as usual.
"It's not as much pressure on me as it is putting on the Governor," he said. "The problem right now is this thing has become political. The children are stuck in the middle. He and I want the same thing. I want school to start back, but I want it to be done safely."
He realizes that he will not be able to make everyone happy, saying that out of 300 emails, he might have 164 in favor of going back to school, and 150 against it.
"There's never been anything more split than the middle than this," Richardson said. "We don't have any back room meetings. We're going to talk in public, and I want everybody to hear what's going on. That's what I was elected for."
Murphy asked if any Horry County students or teachers had died, and Richardson said the county had zero teacher and student deaths due to COVID-19.
Richardson said that while teachers and students had to make a switch in a matter of 3.5 days to move to virtual learning this past spring, another group should also get thanks.
"If anyone deserves any awards, it's the parents ... what about the parents that had to get in here and teach these children," Richardson said.
A big question he received over and over, was about why wasn't there an option on current survey to have "back to normal, in-person school".
"Because that's utopia. That's where we want to be. The survey was to get options," Richardson said.
He said that teachers have been going through professional development during the summer months in regards to distance learning, saying that the district would also be able to use distance learning should the area experience a hurricane or other inclement weather.
Richardson also said that attendance will not be counted this year, saying that while he is impressed by the dedication of those children who never miss a day between kindergarten and senior year, the state would likely not let those awards happen this time around.
"We're waiting on them to send some information back down to us," he said.
He said school nurses will be more important than ever, and that parents will need to be team players, taking their child's temperature before putting them on buses.
"Help us recognize that safety is going to be key," Richardson said. "I think we will have a successful year, even if we have to start it one way and end it another. You might not like what I've said tonight, but I've shot straight with you. I'm not going to ask you to do something I wouldn't do."