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School and other closings for SC, Horry ordered; Columbus makes plans to feed students

Columbus County Board of Education members in emergency session Sunday. (Deuce Niven, TLT)


     All public schools, colleges and universities across South Carolina will be closed for the rest of the month, at least, Gov. Henry McMaster announced Sunday afternoon.

     “School closings are inconvenient, we know that,” the governor said. “They’re inconvenient for everyone, for working parents, for families as well as employers.”

     The decision came as three cases if Coronavirus COVID-19 were confirmed in Horry County on Sunday, two involving elderly residents “currently isolated at home,” a news release from the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

     Another those patient is in isolation at Grand Strand Health.

     With the school closings, McMaster encouraged parents to educate their children on the impact of the disease.

     “It is time for parents to impress upon their children how important things like social distancing is. “McMaster said. Keeping your distance from someone coughing, sneezing, that sort of thing; personal hygiene, washing your hands all day long.

     “Impress upon the children, how important that is and also that will help us remember ourselves, and we must also explain the importance of limiting exposure to those considered at risk like the elderly or the infirm.”

     An emergency meeting of the Horry County Board of Education was set for 7 p.m. tonight (Sunday) in the board room at the district office in Conway. Board members will be briefed on the governor’s order, and the district’s response plans.

Breakfast, lunch in Columbus schools

     Columbus County Board of Education members granted emergency powers to Chairman Worley Edwards and Supt. Dr. Deanne Meadows during an emergency meeting Sunday afternoon, allowing the leaders to take specific actions, if necessary, with the need to call a board meeting.

     “Just let us know,” board member Ronnie Strickland said. “If we can’t trust the two of you we’ve got bigger problems.”

     Board members said they were hopeful the disruption in the school year will be confined to the two weeks ordered by Gov. Roy Cooper Saturday, but said an extension seems likely as they made plans to deal with a more lengthy school closure.

     An immediate issue, breakfast and lunch for students – especially those who might not get another nutritious meal during the day – has been addressed, Meadows said.

     School meals will be available on every Columbus County campus beginning tomorrow (Monday), Meadows said, breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

     Drive-through pick-up will be available, with staff at each school entrance to direct those coming in, Meadows said. Meals will be provided to anyone 18 years of age or younger, even those still too young to be in school.

     School locations may be consolidated or reduced in the coming days, depending on demand, Meadows said.

Mandatory work days

     Columbus school board members approved Monday and Tuesday as mandatory work days for school staffs, with Edwards and Meadows authorized to set additional mandatory work days as events warrant.

     Cafeteria staff will continue working in order to feed students.

     Teachers will be working on plans to continue education by distance learning, especially if the school closings go on beyond two weeks.

     Obstacles to distant learning, online classes, including students who don’t have access to computers, the Internet, or both at home, Meadows said.

     Both Spectrum and ATMC have offered free connectivity to public school, college and university students impacted by the closures. Board member Randy Coleman said those measures are little help for those in areas without Internet access.

     Community help, churches or other groups with Wi-Fi available who could open access to students, is an option that could help, Meadows said.

     “That helps us,” Meadows said. “We can’t do it all by ourselves. Anything the community can do to make us better we need.”

     Wi-Fi will be available to all students in the school parking lots, even as classes are closed, Meadows said. School buses might be equipped with mobile Hot Spots, setting up in neighborhoods without Internet access, she said.

Staff pay

     Gov. Cooper’s order said public school staff would be paid during the time the schools are ordered closed. Coleman asked if coaches who received supplements for spring sports that have now been cancelled would be paid, an issue Meadows said has not been addressed.

     Those coaches “depend on that,” Associate Supt. Dr. Jonathan Williams said.

Horry closings

     While Horry County government offices remain open, the public is asked “to consider doing business online where possible,” a news release from county government said.

     Public meetings scheduled for this week will be postpone, “including Transportation Committee, Public Safety Committee, Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee, and the Subcommittee on Flooding.”

     Courts are closed, both Magistrate Court and Circuit Court, in Horry County. Jurors are not to report to the courthouse this week.

     All Horry County Parks and Recreation after school programs are also canceled, beginning Monday, reflecting the school closures.

     Look for continuing coverage of the Coronavirus response impacting the Tabor-Loris Community here and in the Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.