On Monday, July 13, a press conference addressing COVID-19 and the Williamsburg County School District was held at the W.C. Public Services Administration Building. Senator Ronnie Sabb held the conference, where Williamsburg County School District Superintendent Dr. Rose Wilder and Williamsburg Regional Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troy Gamble provided updates in their respective fields. 

The county’s mask requirement imposed for the next 60 days crosses into the upcoming school term. Wilder said the district’s target date for a virtual opening is after Labor Day. A two-week assessment, required by the Department of Education, will be conducted for K5 - 8th grade beginning the week of August 24, through the first week of September. Safety measures will be used and buses will be available using COVID-19 regulations in place. Parents can also bring their children to the assessment. Again, she said these arrangements could change. 

Wilder said the worst-case scenario is the date may change for K-5 through 8th grade. “The reason being, we need devices for all our students,” said Wilder. Currently devices are available for all other students but the devices for K-5 through 8th grade are on backorder because everyone is going virtual. Wilder said the Department of Education has committed to pay for hotspots for communities without Internet for several months, that is being worked out. 

Wilder said she has received input from approximately 700 parents through a survey. “As of now, the survey reflects that parents do not want their students in a face to face environment, unless we can assure them that it will be completely safe,” said Wilder. “I cannot work magic. I wish I could say we could do that. We are trying to the best of our ability. I can assure the parents and the community that we area adhering to all the guidelines of the CDC.”

Parents of children, who will be four years old before September 1, are asked to register the child in order to qualify the child to receive a laptop. A virtual townhall meeting is being organized in the next two weeks, where parents can ask questions. Parents with questions can call Wilder at (843) 355-3571 or (843) 372-4862. A live stream video can be viewed online at www.kingstreenews.com or on The News’ Facebook page at The News - Kingstree.

Gamble said there would be many tough decisions made in the future. “Even though we can reduce the spread, the spread is going to continue,” said Gamble. “It’s going to run through the school because people outside are not doing what they have been asked to do. They’re not wearing masks, they’re not social distancing.” He went on to appeal to the community to support those in charge. “Let’s come together and support these folks who are trying to make the most difficult decisions of a lifetime,” he said, adding. “We cannot stop it. The good news is we do have some treatment now that’s turned a lot of those people around that would have died otherwise.”