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S.C. Governor Henry McMaster and S.C. Department of Education Superintendent Molly Spearman held a joint press conference on April 22, to announce schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year. The executive order will provide flexibility for the districts, superintendents, and teachers to allow for special needs classes and possibly summer teaching. McMaster encouraged schools to host graduation ceremonies using innovative means. “We will find ways that can be accomplished,” said McMaster. 

Spearman has been in contact with over 4,000 teachers. She said over 80 percent said they were pleased with the way the instruction is going. She acknowledged there is a digital divide that became apparent when students had to learn from home and do not have access to the Internet. She said approximately 19 districts have implemented a full technology plan and about 20 districts have implemented a blended plan. The remaining districts rely on pencil and paper. She said they have tried to provide services as well as service providers doing their part in offering discounted services but for the students who don’t have the technology, she said they need to get them back together in a one-on-one situation as soon as possible. 

As for graduation, Spearman said district leaders have suggested creative ways to hold the ceremonies. She hopes to attend some of the events from a distance. Over five million meals have been prepared by district cafeteria workers and delivered by school bus drivers with the help of principals and teachers. Spearman said the service would continue throughout the summer months. In addition, district officials are working to help students with picking up their property left at their schools.

Spearman invited creative minds to come together to think about the future. Ideas are needed for how to operate the summer reading camps for elementary students and reading and math support for those who need it. She said they are working on a virtual platform as a possibility. 

Spearman said she would announce a task force to address the new school year beginning in August. “It has been a burden. It’s been sad to see schools close, but it has been a joy to see how everyone has pulled together and worked together on this for the good of our children,” said Spearman. “And that will remain our top priority; the safety and the learning of our students.” Guidance information is posted on the Department of Education website at ed.sc.gov/covid19. The video of the press conference can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGHQcRv9XKg.