District 5 returns to in-person learning

By Al Dozier

Lexington-Richland District 5 is moving forward with its plan to return to face-to-face learning five days a week on Feb. 1 despite protest demonstrations that took place just before the Jan. 25 board meeting at Irmo High School.

The district has been observing face-to-face learning four days a week, with Wednesday serving as a distance -learning day.

Several students and parents held a protest demonstration just before the board meeting, carrying signs and expressing concerns about the health and safety of classroom instruction during the pandemic.

Drew Walker, a social studies teacher at Irmo High School, delivered a passionate plea to the board about the importance of keeping students out of the classroom.

“This board is not speaking for the majority, it is speaking for the loudest,” Walker said during the public comment period of the board meeting. He said most people in the District 5 community think it’s too early to return to five days of in-person learning.

“If one of my students or one of my friends dies because of this, that is on you,” Walker warned.

A student at Spring Hill High School also spoke out against the return, citing the lack of safety precautions. He said students are not spaced apart in his classrooms, as has been recommended by health officials. He also noted that some students are not wearing masks.

“We may start striking on Wednesdays,” he said.

Another teacher warned the board that over-worked teachers in the district are at a breaking point.

“We are going to see a mass exodus,” he said.

During the meeting the board approved the attendance lines for the new Piney Woods Elementary School on Amick’s Ferry Road in the Chapin area. Most of the families now living in the new attendance area send their children to Chapin Elementary School. The new school is expected to draw approximately 430 students in pre-K through fourth grade.

The board is adopting one of the scenarios recommended by the engineering planning firm Milone & MacBroom. But during the public comment session former board member Kim Murphy said the attendance numbers that have been presented by the firm are not accurate.