Three Lancaster, S.C. schools temporarily going virtual, fourth one in the district

Lancaster County schools close following rise in COVID-19 cases

LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) -Three Lancaster County, S.C. schools are moving to remote learning following positive COVID-19 tests. Four schools have closed in the last month because of COVID-19 exposure.

Three closed over the weekend.

“I bought cried," said Marybeth Wright," a mother of a student at A. R. Rucker. “Honestly.”

The halls of Erwin Elementary, Clinton Elementary and A. R. Rucker will be empty for the next two weeks.

“It was really hard to tell both my daughters they weren’t gonna be able to go to school today," said Wright.

Wright’s students go to Rucker.

For the next two weeks, their school is going remote.

“When I told her they had to go virtual she started crying," said Wright after telling her child. "Thankfully I have a job where they can go with me.”

Clinton and Erwin elementary schools and A.R. Rucker Middle School have moved to online learning through Nov. 24, and students will be off Nov. 25-27 for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“It’s been some hard days," said Lancaster County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Phipps. "It’s been some hard decisions to be made.”

Phipps has closed four schools. The first one was Lancaster High School back at the end of October. It has since reopened.

He said the decision is based on how many staff members are out. In letters sent home to parents, both schools cite a “severe shortage of staff.”

“That’s a safety issue because if something happened, we wouldn’t have enough administrators to be there to help us. It’s just inevitable we have to do that if we can’t find enough coverage," said Phipps.

Clinton Elementary School states that there are 13 staff members and seven students excluded from the school with one positive COVID-19 case.

A.R. Rucker Middle says that there are 12 staff members and 32 students excluded from school, and four positive COVID-19 cases.

Erwin Elementary School did not confirm whether or not there were confirmed COVID-19 cases, or how many students and staff have been excluded from the school.

While Phipps wrestles with the tough decisions, he said the district is trying to prevent more closures.

“We are following what is recommended for us to do. And it’s not an easy thing. It’s not a popular thing. And in a perfect world I wish we weren’t dealing with this," Phipps said.

Face-to-face instruction will resume for all three schools Nov. 30 for A-Day students, and Dec. 3 for B-Day students. Phipps says he is thinking about the closures when considering a normal schedule return. Something parents do not want to hear.

“I want us to be five days a week but I can’t do that if it’s not safe," said Phipps. "Unfortunately, with the numbers as high as they are it puts us in a bad spot.”

“The school district is doing everything it can. But to have children learn from the computer, they need more than that," said Wright.

Lancaster County reported its highest COVID-19 case count since the pandemic started over the weekend. Superintendent Phipps said he is considering that as well.

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