Sumter Liberty STEAM Charter School transitioning from classroom tables to desks for COVID social distancing


As a result of COVID-19 cases and quarantines in the last couple weeks, Liberty STEAM Charter School is transitioning instruction from classroom tables to individual desks spaced 3 feet apart.

The first-year, public charter school's founding Board of Directors unanimously voted in favor of the measure and other increased mitigation efforts on Monday night at its first board meeting with an operating school.

Liberty's instructional model for kindergarten and first-grade students calls for collaboration between students with kids sitting around a handful of large tables, but with the recent surge in COVID-19, that layout was causing "close contact" and requiring full classrooms to quarantine with a positive virus case.

Before the policy change, Liberty STEAM had four of its nine classrooms - roughly half of its 192 students - in quarantine on Monday, according to Chief of Staff Trevor Ivey.

Liberty has already been in school for three-plus weeks, after starting with students on Aug. 9.

As those students transition back to in-person learning this week and after the Labor Day holiday, they will be in a socially distanced classroom environment with desks spaced 3 feet apart.

If students are in isolated spaces at least 3 feet apart and wearing masks and a positive case occurs in a classroom, no one else would be classified as a "close contact," who must quarantine at home.

Like all public schools in the state, Liberty cannot require masks, but Ivey and Executive Director Khalil Graham said more than 75% of students are voluntarily wearing masks.

In its updated COVID-19 policies, Liberty is also restricting movement in the hallways to maintain 3-foot spacing and students generally spend the entire school day in a self-contained classroom.

"We are going to be restricting a little bit more of the movement in the building as a trade to keep kids in school," Ivey said, "so that when future COVID-19 cases arise, it's not all 24 students being subject to quarantine as a 'close contact,' it really is just those within a 3-foot bubble."

Instruction for quarantined students at home is virtual recorded lessons in addition to academic packets and two check-ins daily with teachers, Ivey added.

Parents of quarantined students have a choice of three options from the state public health agency on when their children can return to in-person instruction.


Liberty STEAM's Board of Directors also on Monday night unanimously selected Martin Smith and Co. CPAs of Greenville for its auditing services this fiscal year.