KERSHAW COUNTY, S.C. — On Thursday, Kershaw County schools began the new school year, the first in the Midlands to welcome back students.
Porchia Brown is the mother of Paris Fletcher. Fletcher is starting kindergarten at Blaney Elementary School in Elgin.
"I’m scared," Brown said. "I’m scared, nervous, but I’m happy that she gets to see other people, meet other people, get to interact with other people, get to do field trips, and just a whole new environment for her."
Brown said Paris is her first and only child, so sending her off to school is very emotional. She said her daughter was nervous at first, but after talking to her about making news friends, participating in different activities and learning more, Paris got more comfortable with the idea of school.
"She got excited," Brown said. "So, this morning, it wasn’t a problem, she was ready to go."
But having to say goodbye and hand her daughter off to her teacher, Brown was not ready for the first day of school.
"No—Mom is not ready to go, but I know it’s life," Brown said. "She has to go so I'll be okay. I’m gonna make it. I’m gonna be nervous all day, but I’m gonna make it."
With a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases and pediatric hospitalizations, the principal of Blaney Elementary, Nicole Kirkley said parents don't need to worry or be concerned about sending their kids off to school.
"We are really taking everything into consideration every day to keep our children safe here," Kirkley said. "In addition to that, we of course have our procedures here that we’re using that coincide with CDC and DHEC guidelines. So, we’re ensuring that all of our students are safe as possible here at school."
During this school year, masks and face coverings are optional. This is due to a proviso banning districts from imposing a mask mandate put in place during the state's latest budget process.
Randi Ray Edinfield is a second grade teacher at Blaney Elementary School. She said teaching during the pandemic last year with face coverings was not an issue. Edinfield said students were not distracted by them.
"Surprisingly, the kids do better with them than you think," Edinfield said. "When they see everyone around them doing it or when they see an example by a teacher or other students, they’ve been likely to keep it on. If it does become a distraction, we just remind them not to play with it, not to bother with it. But personally, I didn’t have experience with that."