FORT MILL, S.C. (WBTV) - It has been a day many kids have been awaiting for months.
After spending nearly a year in a hybrid learning schedule, middle and high school students in Fort Mill returned to the classroom today for full in-person learning.
13,000 kids will be back in school Monday through Friday - for the first time since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, data from Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) shows York County still has a high number of COVID-19 cases. 10-percent of cases recently came back positive.
Fort Mill Schools believes cases are on a downward trend. The district also based the decision on the Centers for Disease Control’s recent school guidance. Data from the CDC shows in-person learning did not add to community spread. As of Friday, a total of 30 students and school staff tested positive for COVID-19.
Fort Mill Schools PIO Joe Burke says they are taking everything in consideration, but it was time to come back.
”We are just really excited this is finally happening. We’ve been waiting for it for a long time and now it’s here. It felt like the first day of school,” says Burke.
Some parents could not be happier saying their students needed to be back full-time. Despite evidence showing in-person learning does not add to community spread, other parents are extremely disappointed the district did not just wait until next year.
”He was up a little earlier than usually so it seems like he was pretty excited to go in today,” says Amanda Hiner.
Her sophomore started out unsure about a five day return. She says he quickly changed his mind when he remembered he would see friends he has not seen in a year. He was on an B schedule while they were on an A schedule.
”He really liked the flexibility of the AB schedule and what he got to do on those off days so there was a little bit of mixed emotions but ultimately I think he’s really happy to get back,” says Hiner.
Some parents and students still are not sure this is the right move.
”It’s almost overwhelming to her. She was dreading it,” says Stephanie Hammond, who has a senior at Nation Ford.
Hammonds’ senior was much happier in the hybrid schedule. She felt comfortable with only seven students in her classroom at a time. Now both worry about the safety inside the classrooms with more than 20 students.
”We lost someone during this COVID and our who family is still being cautious not eating in restaurants,” she says. “And now we’re sending our student back to school in person with everybody.”
One big concern is what the safety looks like inside. WBTV asked Fort Mill School district for a tour of the classrooms but one safety rule is no outside guests.
So the district provided some pictures from inside the classrooms and hallways. The pictures show the signs requiring masks and social distancing. Students walk down hallways on one side one way. Plexiglass dividers are on every desk inside the classroom. Hammond says she is concerned her student and others will not be able to hear or see through the plexiglass.
Still, Hammond says having everyone back will look different than just a few students each day.
”She just has a lot of a lot of anxiety about being COVID aware,” she says. “We’re just disappointed they won’t finish out the year on the AB schedule.”
Hiner and the district agree that COVID 19 cases are on a downward trend. So it is past time to get the students back.
”I feel really confident that we’re ok getting the kids back into the classroom kinda normalizing their schedule,” says Hiner.
Burke says nothing is set in stone. If something unforeseeable happens or there is a spike in cases, he says the district will respond accordingly. As far as cleaning the schools, Burke says the district was cleaning schools at night even in the hybrid model so that will continue now.