By Al Dozier

Lexington-Richland School District 5 hopes to have middle and high school students back in their classrooms four days a week by early January.

But students will learn entirely online January 4 through January 6 to help ease reopening throughout the district, according to Superintendent Christina Melton’s latest proposal, which was approved at Monday’s board meeting. 

The district plans to begin a full week’s worth of in-person classes by February 1, but plans are subject to change as the district continues to monitor the impact of COVD-19.

Melton said the virtual shift would allow the district time to reassess how the coronavirus has affected students and staff before they return to campus, after they have been gone for two weeks.

Students will still have school/instruction, but all learning will take place virtually. There will be no in-person instruction on those three days. The district’s Flexible Innovative Virtual Education (FIVE) virtual program will continue during all in-person learning models.

The board also voted to give the superintendent authority to determine closures on a school-by-school basis if the positivity or quarantine percentages for staff or students passes 10 percent.

Board members discussed the re-entry plan at length.

“There is no easy solution,” said board member Rebecca Hines.

According to numbers released Monday, the district has seen 1,034 students and staff quarantines since September 8. The district has been providing an option of two days of in-person learning to a community split between demands of full-time classroom teaching and remaining virtual to avoid COVID-19 exposure.

Just two weeks ago, the school board declined to take action on Melton’s request to move middle and high school students from a four-day-a-week schedule to a two-day “hybrid” classroom model. That decision is believed to have prompted many teachers to stay at home from Chapin, Dutch Fork and Irmo High schools. All three schools had to close.

The board reassembled two days later and approved a change to a hybrid schedule until students return from the winter break in January.

At Monday’s meeting the board received an update on sports events affected by the pandemic.

The district will temporarily suspend sub-varsity winter sports and activities for junior varsity teams, B-teams, C-teams and other non-varsity teams December 20 through the end of winter break.

The suspension of sub-varsity sports and activities include practices, conditioning/workouts, and game competition. Varsity sports teams will continue to compete and train outdoors, and the district will continue to monitor COVID-19 considerations to make determinations regarding sports activities.

The board received a positive report on its annual audit from Burkett, Burkett & Burkett CPAs. The district is in “an excellent financial position,” according to the audit report.