Aiken school superintendent releases new COVID-19 data; BOE approves dual modality plan


AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – Aiken County School Superintendent King Laurence announced more than 20% of the student population is in quarantine due to COVID-19.

It was a packed house in the Aiken County School Board chambers Tuesday for a meeting. Some people are growing impatient with how school leaders are responding to the pandemic. 

“I’ve seen first hand how the COVID regulations are detrimental to our students,” said Andrew McCaskill.

Laurence reports 4,725 are in quarantine right now as well as 125 employees. Two hundred nine students and 27 staff members have tested positive for coronavirus.

Laurence said, “Quarantines didn’t come down quite as much as cases did but I think that’s carry over from the previous week.”

McCaskill’s son goes to an Aiken County high school. He is urging school leaders to reevaluate the required 14 quarantine days. 

He said, “In Edgefield County, if a student is close to somebody with COVID, after five days they can get a COVID test. And then if it’s negative, they can return to school in seven days. That makes a lot more sense than what we’re doing here in Aiken County.”

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During the meeting, Superintendent Laurence presented a dual modality plan in hopes to provide a better reach to quarantined students. The plan will cause teachers to create live or recorded instruction videos for students in quarantine. 

“We’re not fully doing dual modality. Dual modality would mean keeping track of all the students in the classroom and keeping track of all of the students who are at home to the full extent all day long. And we’re not suggesting anything close to that,” said Laurence.

As the debate about the dual modality plan moved forward, several school board members said many teachers sent emails and calls when they got a whiff of the plan. Some teachers were outside the school district’s office protesting ahead of the board meeting. 

Bethany Ross, a teacher in her ninth year, said “Right now, dual modality just being a camera recording you in the classroom does not do our children justice. It’s not what’s best for them. So to do them justice, they need a virtual teacher and or an in-person teacher.”

The school board approved the dual modality plan with a 5-2 vote. It affects grades four and above. Training for teachers regarding the school district’s Learning Management System and Schoology is set to be from September 27 to October 1. Students will be released two hours early from school each training day.

“It’s too much! They need at least a workday to get that done. To go through Schoology, and create folders, create curriculum especially at the elementary level where we’re teaching reading. The basic reading skills. Writing, basic math skills, science, and social studies we need time. Time that already doesn’t exist in our schedules,” said Ross.

Laurence added teachers will be compensated $1,250 a semester for dual modality.

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