ONE-ON-ONE: Midlands superintendent discusses successes and challenges of school year so far

IRMO, SC (WOLO) — COVID-19 has disrupted school for almost the past two years.

Lexington Richland School District 5 is no stranger to the impact of the pandemic on learning.

“I think the success is that we’re still moving. We’re still moving forward,” said Dr. Akil E. Ross, Sr., Lexington-Richland District 5 superintendent.

However, according to a recent state education report, almost 7,000 teachers left their positions before this school year started.

“COVID has really accelerated the amount leaving,” Dr. Ross said.

Just like many school districts in the state, Lexington Richland School District 5 has struggled with a shortage of teachers as well as a rise in COVID cases. The district has five levels of covid mitigation.

“The last one is virtual learning. That’s red,” the superintendent explained. “We’ve had to go to that level for two days this year because we had a situation with omicron.”

Teachers have helped out in empty classrooms to fill in and keep school in person, as has even the superintendent himself. He has since reached out to the community for help as well.

“The night we were posting 117 unfilled classrooms, we put out an urgent cry for help,” Ross said. “We put on our social media ‘We need substitutes, if you can, sign up.’”

More than 250 new substitute teachers look to join the 300 plus substitutes the district already has. A shortage of staff is not the only problem the district faces.

“Our issue is to make sure every child that we have can grow one academic year per calendar year,” Ross said. “That’s our struggle right now.”

The superintendent reports that some students are several grade levels behind, which is more concerning to him than book challenges or questions over whether critical race theory is being taught in schools.

“I’d like to center the conversation about what our literacy rates are, what our numeracy rates are and the type of character of our students versus the content in a specific book or a theory that is not taught in schools,” Ross said.

Lexington-Richland 5 is currently in person learning but is facing more than 700 students isolating or quarantining as well as 87 staff members

The district does not require masks but highly encourages them to be worn.

Categories: Lexington, Local News, Richland