ORANGEBURG, S.C. — With just under a month before the 2021-2022 school year starts for Orangeburg County, there is new COVID-19 guidance from the school district. However, some parents have some COVID safety concerns before teachers and staff welcome the kids back.
"Especially the little ones," said Rosa Jones, an Orangeburg resident. "It's going to be hard for them to keep their mask on and interact with each other."
Jones is an Orangeburg grandmother whose 10-year-old attends Mellichamp Elementary School. She says she's worried about people contracting and spreading the virus and if the school district will accommodate student's potential academic gap after spending roughly 15 months learning online.
"If some of the kids have to repeat a grade and if they are not up to speed, then the school district needs to work out a situation where that can be handled," said Jones. "Everybody needs to come together, put something together, and work more with the children."
Orangeburg County School District plans to return to five-day-a-week face-to-face instruction, with fewer than five percent of students enrolled in Orangeburg Online.
The school district is encouraging all eligible individuals to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Fully vaccinated employees are exempt from face-covering requirements if they show proof of being vaccinated and complete the opt-out form.
In the school district's revised back-to-school plan, leadership says they will follow and adhere to public health recommendations to reduce the spread of the virus. Custodial staff will sanitize common workspaces, high traffic areas, and frequently touched surfaces multiple times per day. Each student will use their own supplies as much as possible and disinfect any shared items after each use.
Orangeburg County School District also has a 504 plan in place. The school district didn't go into details about the 504 plan, but 504 teams will follow procedures for conducting meetings for students based on recommendations from the previous school year. The necessary accommodations will be developed for each identified student annually.
School leadership told News 19 their plan was approved before covid restrictions changed. The school district is expected to discuss changes to the back-to-school plan in their next school board meeting on August 10th.