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Why Rock Hill Schools are going against South Carolina governor's reopening plan

Rock Hill Schools aren't willing to fully open for in-person learning as Gov. Henry McMaster recommended. Instead, they're focusing on student and teacher safety.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — The Rock Hill Board of Trustees voted Thursday to continue with the district's plan to offer a hybrid plan of in-person and virtual learning.  The plan goes against Governor Henry McMaster's wishes calling for schools in the state to reopen for full time, in-person learning. 

Superintendent Dr. Bill Cook said he's watching coronavirus numbers grow and the district is planning for when, not if, that happens. 

"We know that the governor made some recommendations in his press conference last week to do five days a week or virtual learning, and we all, I believe, have that same goal," said Dr. Cook."All districts around the state and U.S. are trying and working toward bringing back all students as quickly and safely as we can. We could not safely bring back our entire classes and all students and all schools at all levels."

The bottom line, Cook says, is safety is the top priority. 

"There's no greater responsibility than to be responsible for someone else's child, someone else's mom or dad," Cook said. 

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When classes resume on September 8, the schools will operate on a C/A/B/A/B schedule. Classes will be at half capacity and students will get two days of in-person instruction. One group on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the other has Wednesdays and Fridays. Monday will be reserved for students with special instructional needs. 

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"The cohorts that we have created on the A day and B day are intentional, so that we can minimize cross interactions with students as best we can," Cook explained. 

Rock Hill Schools will have health and safety screenings, as well as enhanced cleaning procedures. Desks will have Plexiglas barriers and masks will be required. The district has purchased some personal protective equipment (PPE) for teachers and students. All of the changes bring an extra cost, and the district has applied for CARES Act funding to help pay for it. 

"There are so many unknown costs associated with this plan and not knowing how long we'll have to operate in whatever mode that could be,” said Cook. “We could return, and that’s our goal, with all students at some point when that can be safely done. But at the same time, just as we experienced on March 16, the schools could be closed again.”

Families have the option to do all online learning. Cook said so far, at least 2,700 students have been registered for those classes. Registration is open until July 27 for virtual learning. Regardless, this school year will look and feel different. 

Cook says the ultimate goal is to get every student back in the building safely.

“We thank you in advance for patience, for flexibility, because it’s going to be responding to the needs that come and adjusting,” he said. “Ultimately, as we have heard over and over again I just urge our community and everyone to practice all of the safety protocols that are being encouraged by our health officials.” 

EDITORS NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly had a start date for classes of August 17.