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All South Carolina K-12 schools must soon offer instruction to students in person, five days a week, according to a bill that will become law with the governor’s signature.
Gov. Henry McMaster says he plans to sign legislation soon. For much of the pandemic, McMaster has been pushing school districts to open their doors to families to give them an option of sending their children to school.
“I will sign it as soon as it gets to my desk,” McMaster said Wednesday, shortly after the House agreed to a Senate version of the five-day in-person instruction bill, which includes prohibitions on teachers instructing both in-person and virtually simultaneously.
The legislation requires schools to offer five-day in-person instruction by April 26 for all students. Schools in the state were closed in March of last year, forcing students to go to remote learning in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic.
As the 2020-21 school year began, McMaster called on districts to offer five-day in-person instruction, saying districts have access to adequate money to purchase necessary personal protective equipment and the virus does not spread rapidly in schools.
According to the S.C. Department of Education, 76 districts are offering full face-to-face instruction for all students, and three districts are offering hybrid in-person instruction. Those districts — Colleton, Greenville and Hampton 2 — will transition to five-day face-to-face instruction for all students on April 26.
No districts are only offering fully virtual instruction.
Overall, 1,210 schools are offering five-day face-to-face instruction, and 51 schools are in a hybrid model where students are at school two to four days a week.
The bill prohibits schools from assigning a teacher to instruct students in-person and virtually simultaneously unless it is reasonable and necessary because of extreme and unavoidable circumstances. However, in those circumstances teachers must receive extra pay.
The legislation also raises the earnings limitation on retired teachers for three years from $10,000 to $50,000 in order to help districts entice more retired teachers to come back to the classroom to help students recover academically from the effects of the pandemic.
“Every family must be given the option of sending their child to school five days a week, face to face, and the science shows that this can be done safely in every community,” S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said. “I am thankful for the educators who have been making this option a reality for many throughout this school year and look forward to the governor signing this bill into law, ensuring every school will be fully open for in-person learning now and into the future.”