SC Black School Board Shuts Down Governor’s Reopening

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Cheryl Hinton Harris, President of the South Carolina Caucus of Black School Board Members

By Stacy M. Brown

Gov. Henry McMaster has urged schools to reopen five days a week, but his demand faces lots of pushback.

Among those seeking to shut down McMaster’s push to reopen schools is the South Carolina Caucus of Black School Board Members.

“We feel that, first of all, that decision should be made by local governance of the district and not by the Governor,” said Cheryl Hinton Harris, a member of the Richland One Board of School Commissioners, and President of the South Carolina Caucus of Black School Board Members.

“In light of the fact that the numbers are as high as they currently stand with COVID-19, it’s our responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all students,” Harris told the Florence Community Times. “Reopening for face-to-face instruction right now would put our students in harm’s way. This is a virus that we still don’t understand.”

Harris noted that schools were ordered closed in March when the pandemic began. At that time, the number of victims was far fewer than today. “We closed the schools to keep the students safe,” Harris declared. “There are many more cases active cases now, so it doesn’t make sense to open.”

Harris also illustrated why schools regularly participate in fire and active-shooter drills. “When we have those drills, we wait for the all-clear. Right now, COVID-19 is the active shooter, and we haven’t gotten the all-clear,” she said.

The Palmetto State Teachers Association, SC for Ed, the South Carolina Education Association, the South Carolina School Boards Association, and the South Carolina Association of School Administrators also denounced the governor’s announcement.

“In the midst of a generational crisis, the state of South Carolina desperately needs sound and steady leadership that is focused on ensuring the health and well-being of all South Carolinians,” the PSTA said in their statement. “The Palmetto State Teachers Association categorically opposes Governor McMaster’s push for all school districts in South Carolina to operate in-person instruction five days a week without regard for the coronavirus pandemic status when schools are scheduled to resume.

The PSTA went on to say that the decision “would needlessly jeopardize the health and safety of our state’s 800,000 students and more than 50,000 teachers.”

Harris said students, parents, teachers, and administrators are afraid of face-to-face instruction.

“Think about it, if a teacher comes to school sick and the virus is transported to the children’s homes, and vice-versa,” Harris said. “We need to err on the side of caution. I’ve heard from countless teachers who said they love their profession. Some, who’ve been doing this for decades. They said, if they have to choose between teaching and living, they will choose to live and resign.”

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