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Horry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey sent teachers and parents an email Monday saying that HCS will operate under a distance learning model from January 4, 2021 through January 15, 2021. 

"Following the Thanksgiving holiday, HCS experienced an increase in COVID-19 positive cases that were dispersed around the district, as well as an increase in the number of staff members placed on quarantine," Maxey said in the email to teachers, obtained by My Horry News. "Though staff quarantines do not mean that individuals placed in quarantine have COVID-19, this safety measure for employees identified as close contacts of a positive case may impact ... a school's ability to conduct face-to-face classes."

Maxey's email goes on to say that during those two weeks of distance learning, schools will be closed and no students will be in the buildings, and all teachers will provide instruction to students through the virtual environment and will not report to their schools. 

Athletic events previously scheduled over the holiday break will continue, the email reads, but the District's Health and Safety Services Department will continue to monitor teams, and should issues arise, quarantines may be in order. 

"A decision regarding all regularly scheduled athletic and extra-curricular activities for the first two weeks of January will be made and communicated near the end of winter break, based upon data available at that time," Maxey said. 

Maxey went on to praise the educators of the district.

"I appreciate very much the service that you have provided our students during this difficult time; their education could not have continued without you," Maxey wrote in the email to teaching staff. 

Board chairman Ken Richardson confirmed the news. 

"We decided to do that today. We don't have any way of tracking these kids and staff during the actual break. If we have the same trends we have had during Thanksgiving ... we know we're going to have a spike, so it gives us two extra weeks to get the plexiglass installed," Richardson said.

Any changes beyond January 15 will be communicated to parents in plenty of time to make arrangements, he confirmed. 

Richardson said he anticipates that if all goes well, face-to-face, five-day learning after plexiglass installation can begin February 1. 

"That's what we're hoping for," Richardson said. "This [distance learning decision] is the safest thing for us to do."

According to the HCS COVID-19 dashboard from Monday afternoon, there are 151 cases within the district, including 82 students and 69 staff members, and 282 staff members in quarantine.

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