Florence NAACP Questions Recent Actions By Florence School District One Regarding Workers With COVID-19

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The Florence Branch of the NAACP has received several reports/ complaints from employees of Florence 1 Schools about horrific violations of the Federal and State Coronavin1s 19 Pandemic Guidelines.
Several Florence One Schools employees have tested positive for coronavirus, and the hierarchy has mostly remained mum about the district’s response to the pandemic.

Florence One Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley and Board Members, including Barry Townsend, have not returned multiple messages seeking comment.

However, Pat Gibson Hye-Moore, a member of Florence City Council District Seat 2 expressed anger over the district’s actions and the reassignment of workers after many had been exposed to COVID-19.
“Florence School District 1 did nothing. They put so many lives at risk when they realized a worker was symptomatic by just closing sites and reassigning workers,” Hye-Moore said.

“I had two individuals contact me concerning this issue. They should have gotten everyone tested. They not only put their workers at risk, but they also put their workers’ families at risk as well as those children and adults that received meals during the distribution process at various locations throughout the district,” Hye-Moore continued.

O’Malley and the entire school board should be held accountable, she added.

“I was told by a couple of workers that in early March when the schools closed because of the pandemic, the district didn’t even provide masks for those that still had to report to work,” Hye-Moore said. “I am appalled they are acting so irresponsibly and feel their punishment should fit the crime.”

Florence One Schools Lead Nurse Beth Holzbach told reporters the district has worked with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to contact those workers who may have been exposed to the virus.

“We do share the information, and DHEC is very good about sharing the specific information with contacts about symptoms to watch for,” Holzbach said.

“The time frame of quarantine does not mean you are going to become ill. It’s just a period of time you need to be away from a group of people so you can monitor for the symptoms,” she said.

Florence One Schools Board of Trustee Alexis Pipkins, Sr. said he’s deeply concerned about those on the front lines. “Our front line, essential workers who have provided countless hours of support to our community, and, at the same time putting themselves as well as their families at risk,” Pipkins said in a statement.

“I am personally appreciative of them, as well as, the members of the community who have provided support to our cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and custodial workers, as well, as other staff administrators and teachers who provide care and support to our children and our families during this time,” he added.

Pipkins continued, “However, as it relates to some of the President’s concerns about the spread in our local community, it is my continued hope and prayer that we would utilize as much protection in ensuring our staff has masks, gloves, proper covering and those types of support and that we also recognize many of these folks going far above – something that none of us prepared or expected to occur.”

1. Immediately following the closure of SC Schools March 16th, Assistant Teachers, Bus Drivers and other auxiliary staff were assigned to pass out student work packets and meals directly to the public (parents, students and other members of the community) without the required PPEs (masks, gloves and gowns when necessary) nor the social distancing (6ft) advised.

2. An employee at the Beck Center became seriously ill and was sent home to self-quarantine the last week of March. Even though, the other
employees had worked daily with the employee; without testing or PPEs, they were sent to Greenwood School and the Beck Center was closed..
Within a week, other employees at Greenwood took ill and were sent home and once again, without testing, others were transferred to other schools.
All of the employees should have been quarantined, surveilled & contact traced.

3. TESTING is absolutely mandatory prior to opening schools and if we listen to the Medical Professionals-testing is and should be mandatory for the state and the nation.

Ifthere are others who have complaints or know of other situations dealing with this pandemic, please contact the Florence Branch office:
843-673-0693; flobranchnaacp@att.net.

All of these incidents are being investigated locally and have been sent to the SC State NAACP Office for further investigation with the Governor, the SC Supt. of Education and DHEC.

Jerry Keith, Jr., Florence Branch President

Post Office Box 5653 • Florence, South Carolina 29502

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