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Just the facts: What you need to know as Greenville schools get set to open | Greenville Health

Classes resume on Monday, Aug. 24 at Greenville County’s public schools. Here are a few things you need to know.

The questions

Does everyone really have to wear masks in schools? If you’ve made it past first grade, yes. Barring a very good medical reason, also yes. This applies to all school district buildings, including headquarters downtown. There are times when social distancing can be maintained where students might be able to take their masks off. If social distancing isn’t possible and kids refuse to wear a mask, they will face discipline. The schools will have masks for those who forget or lose theirs.  

Why can’t we go back to school five days a week like Pickens County? Superintendent Burke Royster’s team at Greenville County Schools based their 0, 1, 2, and 5 attendance plans (numbers correlate to days at school) on the district’s ability to maintain six feet of distance between students and their teachers. Plans 1 and 2 reduce populations at school buildings enough to make this possible. Plan 5 — with schools full — does not. The Pickens County plan is two weeks of full attendance followed by two weeks of kids staying at home. The idea here is that if anyone is sick, their symptoms will emerge in that two weeks that they are home. Anyone who is sick, under any plan, should stay home. Districts developed their plans autonomously. Royster said he is as concerned for the health of staff as he is for the children and would have to shut down schools if he does not have enough healthy adults to run them.  “Who’s right and who’s wrong I guess remains to be seen,” Royster said.

Greenville County Superintendent Burke Royster sits at his desk in the school district’s headquarters near downtown Greenville on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. 

By Anna B. Mitchell

How will quarantining work? The amount of time you must spend in quarantine depends on the level of your exposure. People are infectious up to two days before their symptoms appear. According to DHEC, if you are in close contact with someone who comes up positive with the virus, you must quarantine for 14 days. Close contact means being within six feet of a person for 15 minutes or more. If someone in a class comes up positive but social-distancing was maintained at all times, the staff and students should remain together as much as possible for the next two weeks while at school and monitor symptoms. If you live with someone who has COVID-19 and you are in close contact with him or her, you must quarantine for another 14 days after that person has been cleared from isolation. If you get tested and it comes back negative, you can return to school. If you have a positive PCR test (nose/throat swab), you must quarantine for 10 days after the specimen was collected. 

How many kids will be on school buses? Buses will be two-thirds full, which means 48 on a standard school bus. Everyone has to wear a mask on the bus. Buses will be loaded from rear to front. Students should get off starting from the front and working back. 

Can kids get COVID-19? Yes. Studies show that even very young children can develop an infection, though many have only minor or no symptoms. A South Korean study of 5,700 patients found kids younger than 10 spread the virus at about HALF the rate of adults. Kids ages 10-19 spread the virus at about the same rate as adults. A study of Danish schools found minimal transmission among students practicing social distancing. In Israel, schools reopened with relaxed social distancing standards and experienced a surge in new cases. The outbreak in Cherokee County, Ga., over the past week was similar to the earlier Israeli scenario.

Kim Moorer cleans the entrance to East North Street Academy on Monday morning, Aug. 17, 2020, after elementary students entered the school for orientation. With coronavirus still widespread in the county, a hybrid schedule of online and in-person classes will launch Aug. 24 in the school district.

By Anna B. Mitchell

The numbers

Plan 1: The attendance plan that says students will be at school one day a week. It’s a rolling schedule from Monday to Thursday with a quarter of students attending each of those four days. Fridays are set aside for homework. Teachers mostly work from home planning and catching up with students. Attendance days are organized alphabetically (Monday = A-D; Tuesday = E-K; Wednesday = L-Q; Thursday = R-Z); this is the plan the district will use when community spread of coronavirus is high or medium.

Plan 2: Under this plan, students go to school two days a week — Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday. Schools will largely be closed on Fridays.

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76,600: The number of students enrolled in the Greenville County school system in 2020-2021.

23,000: Roughly the number of students who will take all classes online. These students will be able to take part in after-school extracurricular activities at schools. Arts students should contact their teachers about in-school performance opportunities, too.

This contributed photo shot on Monday, July 20, 2020, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic shows how desks will be spaced out at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary in Greenville to keep students at least six feet apart once classes resume on Aug. 24. Courtesy of Greenville County Schools

By Anna B. Mitchell

13,500: The number of students who will attend classes at Greenville County schools on Aug. 24 under the district’s Plan 1 for attendance. 

161: Number of days since classes were last in session at a Greenville County school, more than five months.

30: Largest class size in Greenville County’s middle and high schools. Under Plan 1, this drops to eight so students can maintain a proper social distance. Under Plan 2, maximum class size is 15, which is technically a few enough students to maintain social distance but harder to manage should anyone move. Elementary schools have smaller class sizes, with the smallest in first grade — 18 students per class normally, 5 under Plan 1.

500: On July 19, this was the number of cases per 100,000 people in Greenville County tallied over the previous two weeks. Greenville County has 500,000 people, so the county was looking at 2,500 cases over two weeks at this point. This data came from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. 

200: This is the number of cases per 100,000, tallied over two weeks, that DHEC considers high. Anything at or above indicates high community spread of coronavirus.

188: Number of cases per 100,000 that Greenville County reported the previous two weeks on Aug. 17. This put the county at “medium” community spread for coronavirus for the first time all summer.

Have questions or comments? Contact Anna B. Mitchell at for answers.

Follow Anna B. Mitchell on Twitter at @AnnaBard2U.

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