Some area private schools continue with full time face-to-face learning amidst COVID-19

Comparing COVID-19 cases in public, private schools

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Many private schools in Horry County began the school year five days a week face-to-face.

While not all, the full-time face-to-face format is what some parents have hoped for in public schools.

Risen Christ Christian Academy has the five days of full-time traditional learning, except for this week. There was a positive COVID-19 case and the decision to move to virtual for the week was due to some staff members having direct exposure. Students will continue with five days a week on Monday.

Beyond this week, Risen Christ Principal Sean O’Connor said the five-days-a-week learning model is working well. Safety precautions have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic, and includes face masks and social distancing.

Private schools began full-time, face-to-face instruction for the 2020-21 school year on Aug. 17. O’Connor said enrollment has also increased since the beginning of the year.

“It’s because we’re doing live instruction five days a week,” O’Connor said. “Our normal school hours from 8 to 3, we are here. We’ve had a great influx in enrollment but some of our classes are closed. We just can’t fit anymore in sticking to the social distancing requirements.”

O’Connor said keeping students in a “bubble” has helped to keep the school’s case counts low. Students have a “bubble” of just their classmates; they don’t interact with anyone outside of it.

As they continue to see enrollment numbers go up, Horry County Schools parent Kay Davis is interested in switching her children to private school due to their strategy of five days a week of face-to-face instruction.

“He thrives better in a routine and even at home when we’ve tried to replicate the routine it’s not what he’s used to so it’s still not really a routine for him,” Davis said. “He’s used to certain blocks a day in different classes, being around his peers. That’s not something I can replicate at home.”

Parent Jana Martin switched her son from private to public school two weeks before the new year was set to begin. She said the full-time, face-to-face instruction has been great, seeing signs of improvement in her child because of the teacher being present at all times.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has an interactive map of COVID-19 cases at both public and private schools by county across South Carolina.

DHEC’s website shows no private school in Horry County has had more than five COVID-19 cases in students. It does note, however, total cases for a school will only be shown if cases for students and cases for staff are both at least five.

Risen Christ has had four students test positive; the map doesn’t list the cases.

Meantime, the Horry County Schools dashboard shows 1,141 COVID cases between all students and staff since school began. The district is home to more than 45,000 students.

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