Lowcountry Headlines

Lowcountry Headlines


Here’s how some Lowcountry school districts are preparing for Coronavirus

By Rob Way|March 5, 2020 at 2:30 PM EST - Updated March 5 at 7:38 PM

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - With confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, some South Carolina school districts are preparing for the possibility of an outbreak in the Palmetto State.

The Charleston County School District is the second largest in the state, and spokesperson Andy Pruitt said they are monitoring this matter closely with the state’s department of health.

“Our district-wide disinfection plan for a response to a pandemic does prioritize the cleaning of facilities with custodial personnel, including where to clean, how to clean it, and how often,” Pruitt said. “We are working on addressing an interruption to normal instructional operations if that were to become necessary, but those plans are in the beginning stages.”

The school district has also started to sanitize surfaces inside every school, according to school district Chief Operating Officer Jeff Borowy.

“Our daily sanitation of schools is what’s been recommended to be most effective," Borowy said. “We have a team that comes in at night for each school and sanitizes all of the horizontal surfaces in the commonly used space.”

He added the school district is also considering misting, which is used on a regular basis to sanitize locker rooms, if it becomes necessary.

“We have also provided our staff with resources from the DHEC, including where to receive updates about this topic, what to know about the coronavirus, and tips for preventing the spread of this virus,” Pruitt said.

Berkeley County School District

The school district is following all DHEC procedures and protocols, including the use of hospital-grade disinfectants to clean facilities.

Colleton County School District

Colleton County School District staff are also working to protect their schools from an outbreak.

“[We are] immediately isolating students and staff members that show symptoms of a respiratory illness, and then sending them to their homes as soon as possible,” spokesperson Sean Gruber said. “[We are] using hospital-grade disinfectants proven to kill coronavirus and influenza virus to clean our facilities.”

The school district is also making sure everyone has access to antibacterial products.

“In case of a local outbreak of coronavirus, CCSD will coordinate student handwashing and use all resources available to clean any hard surfaces, doorknobs, and desks in our facilities,” Gruber said.

Extracurricular activities would also be canceled. Schools would only close in the case of a severe outbreak.

“If our school district remains closed for an extended period of time due to a community-wide outbreak of coronavirus, CCSD will make every effort to continue providing educational programming for our students,” Gruber said.

Dorchester County School District 2

DD2 spokesperson Pat Raynor said their crews have “heightened” their level of cleaning. DD2 Nurse Coordinator Amanda Santamaria said their nurses are also ready.

“The CDC updates their website pretty much daily, so we’re keeping an eye on that and then sharing it with all our district nurses" Santamaria said. "That’s so their equipped and have the best most current information to go off of so they can best inform their fellow staff members, their administrators at their school level, parents when they call in with questions, and then students when they ask what’s going on.”

Dorchester County School District 4

Preparations are also underway in DD4 schools, according to spokesperson Joyce Davis.

“All classrooms have sanitizer and wipes,” Davis said. “We are following the normal procedures from DHEC, constantly washing hands with soap, using sanitizer and Clorox wipes. If students have fever or severe colds or flu, parents are asked to keep them home.”

The school district is also in the early stages of discussing e-learning, but nothing has yet been finalized.

Beaufort County School District

Beaufort County School District cleaning crews are using hospital-grade disinfectant in schools at the end of each day, according to spokesperson Jim Foster.

“School nurses are reminding kids to wash their hands often, and nurses are re-teaching kids how to do that thoroughly,” Foster said. “We urged parents last week to keep children at home if they’re sick, and district employees are being urged to stay home if they’re sick. If a student or staff member at a district school were to become infected, we would rely on the experts at DHEC and CDC to make any decisions on a possible school closure. Right now, our biggest concern is the common flu. Last month we had 202 confirmed cases at district schools, but that’s down significantly from the 336 confirmed cases in February 2019.”

Georgetown and Williamsburg County School Districts have not yet responded to requests for comment.

“Berkeley and other participating districts could use eLearning as a tool to provide instruction in the event of a prolonged closure,” South Carolina Department of Education spokesperson Ryan Brown said. “There is also the possibility that an impacted district could use other means such as paper packets to supplement the loss of instruction. eLearning and similar practices will not be able to take the place of traditional instruction but we are talking of dire circumstances where some instruction during prolonged closure is better than none.”

In regards to closure decisions, those will be made by DHEC and the district after investigating on a case by case basis, Brown said. “Their goal is and will be to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students, staff, and the community as a whole. A single case does not necessarily mean a school will be closed. It all depends on the investigation and what is in the best interest of preventing the spread while having the least negative impact to regular operation.”

Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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