Some Horry County parents seek clarity from school district on potential face-to-face instruction next week

Horry County Schools to make decision this week on hybrid learning

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Horry County school leaders are asking parents to be patient as they decide whether to continue face-to-face instruction in schools next week.

This comes after the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control put Horry County at ‘high-spread’ level for COVID-19.

Since the first day of school on Sept. 8, Horry County students in the traditional learning program have been using a hybrid model, with two days in school and three days of digital learning. That’s because SCDHEC had listed Horry County in 'medium-spread’ level for the virus.

But that changed on Oct. 8 when the report put the county at a high-spread level. Based on that report, the school district is expected to implement five days of digital learning for all traditional learning students.

School leaders say that report will give a more accurate perspective on where SCDHEC puts the COVID-19 threat.

“I hope parents can understand, this gives you a choice to see what goes on with DHEC numbers," Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson said. “[We went from medium category the week before last] to high. What we decided to do was to leave the children in school until we got a better chance to get a better reading, to see if we have a spike there, and see what’s going on. [We want to] make the best decision we can for the parents.”

David Warner has two sons who are both enrolled in the hybrid learning program. One is in the special needs classroom.

Warner says time is of the essence and feels parents need to known sooner than later if face-to-face instruction isn’t happening next week. He noted that he understands SCDHEC’s data numbers have changed but also feels the district needs to give families more time to figure out schedules.

“Work schedules are made weeks in advance,” Warner said. “I think the second [the district] learned the [COVID] numbers were high, the school board should of held an emergency meeting and started making decisions then. I think what we’re going to find is parents are put into situations out of their control and they’re going to have to make tough decisions about how they’re going to care for their child.”

Horry County parent Brandi Roberts said her daughter shines in a traditional learning environment. She says her child needs to know sooner rather than later if she will be moving to an all digital environment.

"If [Horry County Schools] put kids back at home virtually five days a week, that’s going to put a lot of parents in a bind, especially if you don’t give us any more notice than what they’re giving us [this week],” Roberts said.

Heather Oakley has a daughter who’s enrolled in the hybrid learning program at an elementary school. She says inside of the school, her daughter is a bit more focused.

“At home, [my daughter], she sees her toys, and gets easily distracted and easily frustrated,” Oakley said.

Richardson said they want to make the best and safest decision about the hybrid learning model later this week to ensure all students succeed in the safest environment possible.

He added the board is taking into account numerous factors on Thursday when making that final decision. He says the process includes not only SCDHEC’s data report, but any information the district receives this week from the South Carolina Department of Education.

“The bottom line is safety," Richardson said. "We want to stay on [top of being safe] but we also want to make sure the information we’re receiving is good information and the data is correct.”

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