Clarendon School District 2 extends virtual learning for another week


Clarendon School District 2 announced Thursday it will extend virtual instruction for another week because of new virus cases and an increase in the number of students in quarantine.

The district first switched to temporary remote learning after the Labor Day weekend after a surge of COVID-19 cases and quarantined students raised alarms to school officials to not continue with face-to-face instruction as a safety precaution for students and staff.

After more than 240 students were quarantined in week 2, the Manning-based school district reported since Sunday, Sept. 5, that district nurses have either quarantined or isolated 73 additional students and staff.

With these additional data released by the school district, there are now 581 students and staff that have quarantined since the beginning of the school year.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature put a limit on how many students can enroll in virtual learning, with each district capped at 5%, or risk losing state funding. However, schools can switch back to temporary virtual learning if they are experiencing a staff and faculty shortage of more than 50%.

The total number of staff and faculty members has yet to be released by the district.

According to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control's "COVID-19 Interim Guidance for K-12 School Operations," schools can temporarily go to virtual learning if there is a 30% or higher rate of absenteeism in the school or grade level because of COVID-19 or if 5-10% or higher of the student body is in isolation simultaneously after testing positive, or if they discussed and it's recommended by local medical and public health professionals based on the local health care system's capacity.

There are more than 2,600 students enrolled in the district. It is not clear if those individual school thresholds have been reached.

In a statement, Superintendent Shawn Johnson said the virus had an increased opportunity to spread during the Labor Day weekend and that the incubation period, the time from exposure to development of symptoms, ranges from 3-14 days. With this, people exposed could start having symptoms by the end of next week.

With this, and after consulting with health officials from DHEC and the state Department of Education, they have decided to extend the temporary remote learning for another week until Sept. 17.

"The extension of virtual learning should allow for people with symptoms to be tested and/or begin quarantine before returning to school," Johnson said.

Virtual instruction will now run from Sept. 13-17, and district officials will likely decide on whether to extend it before the end of next week.