Horry County Schools parents will have a chance to change the way their child attends school for the spring semester in the next few weeks.
“Parents need to make sure that they have active email addresses on file with the school through Powerschool, because if you don’t have an active current email address with the school, then you won’t get this notice,” said HCS Superintendent Rick Maxey.
During Monday's board meeting, the district said they are in the process of developing a plan for the spring semester scheduling, and on December 1, parents will receive an email outlining this plan.
A link will be made available between December 7 and midnight on December 14 for HCS Virtual students to choose to return to their brick-and-mortar school building, and a link will be made live between December 15 and midnight on December 22 for students in brick-and-mortar schools to move into the HCS Virtual program.
Schedule changes will be made between January 4 and January 26, and parents should also understand that their children’s teacher and cohorts might change as a result of the school’s enrollment changes.
Parents wishing to move their children back into the school buildings should know that conditions could change and brick-and-mortar schools “very well could be” five days, face-to-face instruction.
“Their child might be in two-days-a-week for one week, then five days for the rest of the semester,” said Board Chairman Ken Richardson.
Parents will receive their email, and if they wish to keep their child in their current schooling situation with no changes for the spring, no action will be needed.
Those parents wishing to make the switch will be required to click the link in their email, choose the option to withdraw their child from their current situation and move to the other, and each parent will receive a confirmation email upon making the changes.
Board member Neil James said that there were instances before of some parents saying they thought they signed up for HCS Virtual and they had actually not done so, and Chief of Student Services Velna Allen said there will be an obvious confirmation email sent when parents make a change.
Maxey emphasized that despite how things happened at the beginning of this school year, when parents make a transfer for their child via this email, it is set in stone.
“This is a commitment. We’ve been through this before. This is not an interest, or ‘I’m thinking about it,’” Maxey said. “When you commit to it, that is where your child is going to be next semester. We have to turn around schedules for 45,000 students. We can’t be going back and forth. When you make the decision, that is the decision.”
If an HCS Virtual parent does not receive an email December 7 and wants to transfer back to brick-and-mortar, they are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the opposite end, those brick-and-mortar parents who by chance do not receive an email by the December 15 timeframe and wish to put their children into HCS Virtual, they should email email@example.com.
Installation of plexiglass at the elementary school level is happening slower than originally planned, due to vendors asking for a bit more time to be sure they have everything correct, according to Chief of Support Services Daryl Brown.
Brown said that installation of plexiglass in elementary schools will now begin around November 20, and will be continued after school hours and on the weekends as not to impede education, he said.
Now the projected completion date for elementary school installation is December 23. After that, middle and high schools will receive their plexiglass in a phased format, Brown said.
The updated cost of the entire plexiglass project is approximately $5.2 million, funded by monies from the South Carolina Department of Education and the CARES Act, he said.
The district decided last month to use their own HCS COVID-19 Dashboard, along with DHEC information, to make decisions about future school changes.
The board and Dr. Maxey could not give a definite date when five-day, face-to-face school attendance would happen.
“We can’t commit to a particular time because we don’t know what’s going to happen. This [installation] may go faster than we expected, it may go slower than we expected. There will be a transition time,” Maxey said, reiterating that parents would get at least five days of notice when a major change of instruction style would be happening.
Richardson said the board would not be meeting to talk about this again.
“We’ve already talked about this. When the kids start going back five days is up to Dr. Maxey and his staff. They’ll notify us. We’ll have to let parents know five days in advance, I’m assuming the board might know six days in advance,” Richardson said. “I can assure you we are listening to the parents. We know everybody wants to be back in school and we understand that. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that we’re not spending $5 million to leave the children sitting at home.”
The use of plexiglass, according to new guidance from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, says that students could safely be three feet apart instead of six, while still wearing masks.
The plexiglass will surround the front three sides of the students’ desks, and extend a foot above their head.
The HCS COVID-19 dashboard said Monday night that there were 57 total cases, among 36 students and 21 staff members, across 29 schools.