Fort Mill Schools latest district to make ‘five day in-person’ shift, teachers want help advocating for vaccines

Fort Mill schools moving to 5 days in-person learning

FORT MILL, S.C. (WBTV) - Fort Mill Schools middle and high school students will join their fellow elementary students in-person five days a week. The students go back March 15.

The major change is dividing parents. Parents expressed their opinions on both sides feeling their students need to be back in school while others ask for safety first.

A few parents say the safety measures are just not enough. Fort Mill Schools spokesperson Joe Burke says the safety measures include desk shields, a social distancing plan still in the works and mask wearing. Parents feel community spread isn’t low enough for your students to go back in the classroom.

On the other side parents also told me the district did everything it can to make schools safe. A petition supporting the district and board gained about 70 signatures already. No matter where people land on the issue, Burke assures parents schools aren’t flipping a switch that forgets about COVID-19.

”The district is by no means saying that this is all over with,” says Burke. “We’re just taking the next step forward to return our kids back to what we believe is the best educational situation.”

Some parents want to switch their kids to virtual because they do not want their students in full classrooms five days a week. Burke says the district policy keeps parents from making the switch because of staffing issues. He says the district tried to make that clear when asking parents if they wanted to do virtual or in-person.

Part of the in-person decision meant possibly going to school five days a week. So if you signed up for in-person learning for the semester, switching to virtual is not an option.

The fight continues for teachers wanting to get vaccinated before stepping foot inside a classroom. In South Carolina. Teachers feel the districts asking them to go back in person need to be better vaccine allies.

”It’s extremely frustrating because I don’t think we as teachers are saying we’re more important than other groups,” says teacher Taylor Castaldo.

Teachers in South Carolina continue to spend their time calling and emailing their statehouse representatives for a vaccine. It is something they have done for months.

”For our students. For our families who are struggling with their kids home, it’s incredibly important to get teachers vaccinated and vaccinated as soon as possible,” says Castaldo.

Legislation moving teachers to Phase 1A slowly makes its way through the state legislature. Teachers do not have time on their sides.

”The issue with this is that this if not dealt with quickly is killing people,” says teacher Katie Harris.

Teachers say the clock is ticking because districts are moving forward with five days of in-person classes. The latest in our area is Fort Mill Schools. As March 15, the day Fort Mill Schools middle and high schoolers go back, inches closer, teachers feel administration could advocate more.

”I mean obviously I would feel that every school district would be leaning on their local legislatures to say hey this would be good for schools,” says Burke.

Burke says district administration spoke to local statehouse legislators advocating to pass the vaccine bill. He did not say if the district is actively advocating as much as the teachers. He also did not mention how often district administration talks to state legislators, but he says the district is focused on making its schools as safe as possible so a vaccine is an added protection but not necessary to be safe. He says that has been happening since the beginning.

“I feel like at every turn the district’s been proactive to meet the goals to get everybody back in school and to support the initiative that we believe would get everybody in,” says Burke.

The teacher vaccination bill passed in the Senate recently. The House Ways and Means healthcare subcommittee held a hearing today where State Superintendent Molly Spearman spoke.

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