Lexington schools face unprecedented number of COVID cases in first weeks of fall semester
LEXINGTON, SC (WOLO) — Lexington One School District currently has nine schools in fully virtual learning because of almost 500 COVID-19 cases among students and 74 among its staff.
A local pediatrician blames the high numbers among children on less social distancing and a more contagious variant of the virus.
“You all are aware of the data showing that South Carolina leads the nation in new cases per capita. That portends what is coming down the road as it relates to that,” said Dr. Roger Caughman Taylor, chair of Palmetto Health pediatric department.
In just the first week of school, Lexington One School District saw more than 300 COVID cases. This number is more than in any week in the previous school year.
“To say this is incredibly challenging is an understatement,” said Dr. Greg Little, Lexington One School District superintendent. “It really is an understatement.”
It has forced several of the district’s schools to switch to fully virtual learning.
“What that has allowed us to do is consolidate and our effort to give one instructional model,” Dr. Little said.
He says the district has come a long way when it comes to learning how to teach kids outside of the classroom.
“My youngest daughter has been in quarantine. She’s had an amazing experience with her virtual learning,” Little said. “Her teachers have done an incredible job of keeping her up to date. I’m confident that when she returns to school, she’ll be ready to go and in line with her peers.”
As concerning as learning loss for students is, dozens of students in the Palmetto State are not able to attend school in any capacity due to COVID.
Presently, there are 33 children in children’s hospitals across the state. Half of those are in the ICUs and half of those are on ventilators,” said Dr. Caughman, who also serves as medical director at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital-Midlands.
Health officials say that none of those children are vaccinated.
With less than half the state fully vaccinated and thousands of new cases a day, it forces school districts to make difficult decisions.
“We want to make sure that we’re open face to face for our families. We have a lot of working families, especially single moms,” the Lexington One superintendent said. “When you’re in a situation like that and your child is not old enough to be by themselves, it’s incredibly challenging.”
Another challenge is state law prohibiting districts from requiring masks in schools.
“That is a part that’s incredibly frustrating. You know you have the answer,” Little said. “You know you have a tool that can solve that problem, can reduce quarantining, in school spread and keep kids in school, yet your hands are tied about what you can do.”
Dr. Little says he also encourages parents to speak with their pediatricians about getting their kids vaccinated, saying it can help end the pandemic and get kids back in the classroom sooner.
The superintendent says that the decision to move schools to virtual learning is based on COVID cases, yet there is not a specific number of cases that determines that.
Also being monitored on a case by case basis is extra curricular activities, which continue even though some teams have been forced to quarantine.