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Grand Strand, Pee Dee school districts outline COVID-19 vaccination plans for employees

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 11:19 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - On the same day Gov. Henry McMaster called on South Carolina school districts to submit plans to vaccinate employees, WMBF News reached out to several area districts to outline their processes.

McMaster said Thursday that 37 districts out of 79 statewide currently have a plan in place to vaccinate employees with the help of a local hospital or other approved healthcare providers. The governor also said 19 districts have communicated with providers, but have yet to formalize a plan, while 25 have indicated no plan nor evidence of creating a plan.

Below are responses and information WMBF News received from school districts in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

HORRY COUNTY

  • Horry County Schools: HCS says it is in “preliminary discussions with local hospitals regarding an employee vaccination plan.” The district will also submit its plan to the S.C. Department of Education once it is formalized. A district spokesperson said later Thursday that nearly half of HCS employees expressed interest in receiving the vaccine in a recent survey, adding that “this percentage is fluid as some employees may change their minds.”

Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson said although the plan is still in the works, they’re working hard to ensure teachers that want access to the vaccine are able to receive it when that day comes.

“We’ve got to get them on the list and we’ve got to get them vaccinated,” he said Thursday. “I want the availability for the teachers to have [the vaccine] the absolute minute we can get it for them. Hopefully, this helps with less spread.”

GEORGETOWN COUNTY

  • Georgetown County School District: GCSD says “if the authorization is made and the vaccine becomes available, we will be immediately ready to receive the vaccinations.”

GCSD Executive Director for Safety and Risk Management Alan Walters said the district has a detailed plan for ensuring school workers receive their vaccine. He says key roles in the distribution process have already been assigned.

As of now, he says there are four attendance areas, anchored by high schools, where school workers will get vaccinated. Walters said once teachers are on the eligibility list, the district will be ready.

“We have our nursing staff, we have support personnel, security, all that’s a part of our plan,” he said. “I think if we got word in the morning that the vaccine was available, we’d have folks after school tomorrow with their sleeves rolled up waiting for it.”

FLORENCE COUNTY

  • Florence School District 1: FDS1 says it is working with MUSC Health Florence on “finalizing a robust, comprehensive and compassionate vaccination plan for implementation in the district when educators become eligible for the vaccine.” More details will be available at a later date.
  • Florence School District 2: FDS2 says it has requested the plan from the Florence County Emergency Management Division and McLeod Health.
  • Florence School District 5: FSD5 Superintendent Randy Smiley stated that the district has surveyed staff on who would be interested in being vaccinated. He also said FSD5 will partner with McLeod Health and Health Care Partners to provide vaccinations once it is authorized.

MARION COUNTY

  • Marion County School District: MCSD says it has surveyed staff on their willingness to be vaccinated, and it will work with MUSC Health Marion once teachers are approved to be vaccinated. The district has not submitted a plan as of Thursday but stated it has been in communication with MUSC and that the plan is still being finalized.

MARLBORO COUNTY

  • Marlboro County School District: The district says it is trying to work with providers, but it does not have access to the vaccine for employees as of Thursday.

DILLON COUNTY

  • Dillon School District 4: Superintendent Ray Rogers said Thursday that the district has no vaccination plan at this time.

TEACHER WEIGHS IN ON VACCINE PLAN

Jean Read is a substitute teacher for Horry County Schools but is currently not teaching on school grounds due to underlying health conditions.

WMBF News asked Read if the vaccine would help some teachers, including herself, feel comfortable teaching in a face-to-face learning environment.

“Absolutely,” she said. “After receiving the vaccine and getting the go-ahead from my physician, I will gladly return to subbing in Horry County.”

Read explained that, in addition to the vaccine, there are other factors that must be considered, to ensure staff workers feel comfortable inside the schools.

“I know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts announced it’s safe to return, but I think the part of that statement that lacks support is if the risks are mitigated,” she said. “That includes the ventilation in the school system, some of which are very old and not very efficient, continuing with the social distancing because when you’re returning all of the students back to school, it’s going to be much more challenging. And also the cleaning processes. In Horry County, they’re installing the plexiglass but who’s responsible for cleaning the plexiglass every day?”

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