Gov. McMaster visits Kershaw County School District, applauds COVID mitigation efforts
CAMDEN, SC (WOLO) — While many Columbia areas schools have been forced to go back to distance learning, one Midlands school district has managed to keep kids in the classroom the whole school year so far.
Gov. Henry McMaster held a roundtable discussion with the Kershaw County School District to see how they have managed to that.
“What has been done here has demonstrated that you don’t need to force people to do things in order to make great progress,” McMaster said Wednesday at Camden Elementary.
Starting the school year in August, Kershaw County School District experienced a spike in COVID cases.
The district’s nurses believe that many of these cases came from outside the school. Since this surge, case numbers have continued to go down.
“Several reasons really. A lot of what we’re doing is helping,” said Elizabeth Starling, district nurse for Kershaw County Schools. “A lot of our parents, community and vaccine clinics. It’s a toolbox full of tools that contribute to that.”
The district has offered six vaccine clinics so far this school year and plans to offer more.
Around 75 percent of the staff has been fully vaccinated.
“We do know that vaccines are a good way to stop the transmission of this disease,” said Dr. Shane Robbins, Kershaw County superintendent. “The other thing that’s important to note is that if you’re vaccinated and have close contact, you don’t have to quarantine. There are other incentives to that.”
The governor does not believe that a vaccine mandate is needed in South Carolina.. nor does he support mask mandates in schools.
But do those in Kershaw County Schools think such a mandate is necessary?
“Yes, possibly but it is not one I feel we need to mandate in our school district right now,” the superintendent said.
“It would be nice to have that option to add that if we needed it. I think we have proven we have done very well with the strategies that we’ve used,” the district nurse said.
Those strategies include temperature checks, limiting visitors in the schools, isolation rooms, sanitizing stations and even having students eat lunch in their classrooms.
“I think the biggest thing we did as a school district that really helped us is our dashboard,” Robbins said.
The schools’ nurses monitor that dashboard and the highest percentage of students having to quarantine has been 12 percent. Currently, 1 percent of the student body is currently testing positive for COVID and the number of students quarantining is down to 4 percent.
The school district also allows students to return to school after 7 days instead of 14 days if they take a COVID test.
“As long as they have that negative test, they can come back early,” Starling said. “A lot of our families have taken advantage of that.”
All these measures have allowed Kershaw County to keep case numbers in its schools low and students in the classroom.
The governor called the district a model for the rest of the state.
“We look at the science. We look at the facts. We look at the practicalities. We look at the confidence of the people,” McMaster said. “We put that all together and I think we’re charting a good course.”
The school nurses also report that athletic teams and other extracurricular activities have done a good job of social distancing and keeping the number of students quarantining to a minimum. So far, the school district has only had one game postponed.