‘It’s taking forever’: Some HCS parents frustrated over lengthy school reopening process

Some parents frustrated over lengthy school reopening process

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Some Horry County parents are feeling the frustrations over how long it has taken to decide whether their children will go to class in the fall, or remain at home when school starts back up.

The deadline for all South Carolina school districts to submit their proposed reopening plans to the state was Friday. But once those approvals are received, many parents will still have to wait on a final decision from school districts on what that learning environment will look like for the upcoming school year.

Pending the state of education approvals on the proposal, the Horry County Board of Education is expected to meet for a work session on August 3 to discuss whether students will continue digital learning at home or possibly a hybrid mix, which includes face-to-face instruction at the school.

But for some families, waiting another two weeks for an update about the schools is a bit hard to do.

Many parents told WMBF News that having school plans “in limbo” is making it hard for them to make any concrete plans to balance their work-life and their child’s education.

Some parents, like Betty Haarstick, are also having to think about child care arrangements for kids, which can be a bit more complicated during a pandemic. Haarstick has one son in Horry County Schools and a two-year-old at home.

Because the AccelerateED Task Force has laid out reopening plans based on DHEC guidelines, she feels a decision about the learning environment needs to be made sooner than two weeks.

“I mean nobody’s giving any [definite] plans for [returning] back,” Haarstick said. “In a perfect world, I would of loved to have heard something last month.”

Caroline Williams has a daughter in the Horry County School system and said waiting two weeks is a heavy load for some families because it’s dealing with the safety of their kids.

“It’s taking forever, it really is,” Williams said.

Williams said she has been feeling a bit frustrated about the process, after hearing state leaders support a five-day face-to-face learning environment at the start of the school year.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster recommended that the state superintendent only approve school district plans that include an the option of five days of face-to-face instruction.

“It is a fact, if these children don’t get back to school face-to-face with their teachers, they are going to fall behind, and some of them may never catch up,” said Gov. Henry McMaster during a news conference on Wednesday.

Although some Horry County parents may prefer face-to-face instruction because of childcare limitations, Williams said reopening plans need to based on DHEC and CDC guidelines, to ensure the reopening phase is safe.

“I understand some parents are working and need that [face-to-face learning option], but for people that are high risk, what about us?” Williams questioned. “I mean, if [we end up] being forced to send our kids to school for five days, what if they catch the virus and bring it home.”

“I mean, the whole ironic part of [this] is [holding] a virtual meeting about safety and going back to schools,” Haarstick said.

Board of Education Chairman Ken Richardson released this statement after Governor McMaster’s presser about the reopening process for the Horry County School District:

“As Chairman of the Horry County Board of Education, I have promised the parents of our county’s children that I am ready to send our students back to school for face-to-face instruction as soon as it is safe to do so. This past Monday night, Dr. Maxey and his staff shared with our school board the system developed by DHEC for determining the spread of COVID-19 in each county. School districts use this information to decide whether to return students to school full-time, part-time, or to serve them through distance learning. Speaking for myself, and not on behalf of the board, I believe it is important to use our state’s disease experts to guide our decision making for when and how we return our students and employees to schools. I intend to recommend to our board that we continue to follow DHEC’s guidance when we meet on August 3rd to vote on the district’s re-opening plan. For now, all I can say is that this is between the Governor’s Office and the State Superintendent’s Office.”

Richardson previously told our news team, the safety of students, staff and faculty is top priority for the board and they will continue to focus on keeping everyone safe during the decision making process.

During Monday’s Board of Education meeting, school leaders said a special meeting could take place before the scheduled work session on August 3.

Copyright 2020 WMBF. All rights reserved.