Teachers gave lots of air hugs and air high-fives this morning at Conway Elementary School as children in Group A of the hybrid schedule returned for their first day of school in almost six months.

“It’s been too long since we’ve seen their faces,” said fifth grade teacher Elizabeth Fitzgerald.

Horry County Schools students began school Tuesday on a hybrid schedule, which is decided by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Disease Activity Report. Students are split into Groups A and B, attending two days in person, and three days with distance learning from home.

The last time the students set foot in the classroom was March 13, due to closures for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fitzgerald said she is excited for the day, and has 10 children in her class Tuesday, and for Group B tomorrow she will have eight.

“We’ve been wiping down everything and we’re welcoming them in,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m used to hugging all of them. It will be hard but we’ll make it.”

CES Principal Maquitta Davis said she’s ready to get everyone back to learning.

“We want it to be a magical time for our kids,” Davis said.

Davis said she was excited to welcome everyone to school again.

“When you haven’t seen them in a while, you’re anxious to welcome them back into the family,” Davis said.

Students excitedly hopped out of cars donning their masks, as teachers and administration waved and danced to “Walking On Sunshine” and “We Are Family” playing from the loudspeakers.

All hands were on deck to help children line up at the front door and get where they needed to be safely, and the students were glad to follow protocol, wearing their masks and standing on the yellow circles placed on the sidewalk entrance to help with social distancing.

Shanika Johnson said she was a bit skeptical, saying she didn’t want her child to be around too many people, but that her fifth grader was excited.

Lagreta Spain’s kindergartener came to CES for LEAP (Learn, Evaluate, Analyze and Prepare) days last week and said it went very well, saying the students had plenty of time to be social distanced and take a break from wearing their mask.

"I think it's going to be good," Spain said. 

Monday’s DHEC report showed that HCS was still firmly in the medium spread category, which means the schools will continue on the hybrid schedule through next week.

If the report indicates the spread can be categorized as low, students can go the following week in a five-day, in-person format. If the cases in the area spike or the percent of positive tests rises and is considered high, the students will spend all five days the following week doing distance learning.

The report that comes out on Monday, Sept. 14 will decide how school the week of Sept. 21 will be attended.

The latest DHEC disease activity report can be viewed here

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