DHEC change to disease activity report takes HCS leaders by surprise

Updated: Sep. 28, 2020 at 11:31 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – A change made by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control caught Horry County School leaders off guard on Monday.

DHEC pushed back the day it releases its disease activity report, which determines if kids will be in the classroom or at home on their laptops.

Each week, district officials have been using DHEC’s COVID-19 Disease Activity Report to make the decision of whether to have face-to-face learning five days a week, a hybrid model or complete distance learning.

The report identifies whether South Carolina counties fall into either low, medium, or high spread level for the COVID virus.

Prior to this week, DHEC had been releasing that report on Mondays, giving many school districts about a week to prepare for the next learning week. But according to information on DHEC’s website, the report will now be released on Thursdays instead to allow schools to make plans for the following week with the latest information available.

Leaders with Horry County Schools didn’t realize the change had been made.

A post appeared Monday morning on Horry County Schools' Facebook page stating students would continue with limited face-to-face instruction for the week of Oct. 5 through Oct. 9. The district’s weekly instructional meter, which has been updated every Monday, also listed that the hybrid model of learning would continue next week.

By Monday afternoon, the post was taken off the district’s Facebook page and the update removed from the instructional meter.

Horry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey said the board found out about DHEC changing the day for releasing the report on Monday morning.

“It was a bit of surprise for the day, but it’s okay," Dr. Maxey said. “We weren’t one of the school districts that requested this change. But if there’s one thing I have learned and my staff during the course of this pandemic, is that sometimes you need to be very adaptive in what you’re doing and move forward.”

DHEC’s latest report was released on Sept. 24, reflecting a medium spread for the county, which means hybrid learning will continue from Oct. 5 through Oct. 9.

When the new Thursday report comes out a few days from now, that will be used for the week of Oct. 12.

If Thursday’s report determines Horry County is low spread for the virus, students enrolled in ‘Brick and Mortar’ traditional learning program would return to the classrooms for five days of face-to-face instruction, the week of Oct. 12.

If the report determines high spread, students would participate in digital learning at home all week.

Horry County Schools started the school year with a hybrid model of two days of face-to-face instruction and three days of distance learning due to the medium spread level of the novel coronavirus.

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