S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said that all 81 school districts across the state will have enough personal protective equipment for students to return to their classrooms.
Spearman said a total of $43 million has been spent on safety equipment and supplies to keep students and teachers safe during the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. She made the announcement Wednesday at Roebuck Elementary School.
“For districts in South Carolina already operating five days a week, this purchase will help them continue to operate safely and for the small percentage of our schools that are still only virtual, it assures that they have every need met as they return to in-person instruction this month,” Spearman said.
State education officials spent $33 million in its most recent shipment of safety equipment after spending $10 million at the end of the summer.
Spearman said each district submitted requests for supplies to SCDE in September for PPE, sanitizing supplies, and plexiglass. Funding for this second round of supplies was provided by SCDE through the coronavirus relief funds appropriated by the General Assembly.
“For here in Spartanburg, we ordered 21,250 cloth masks, 22,765 boxes of 100 gloves, 26,700 cases of disinfecting wipes, 2,950 KN95 masks, 3,705 boxes of 50 disposable masks, 5,800 gallons of hand sanitizer and the list goes on,” Spearman said.
Another high demand item that the state will be providing for the districts is plexiglass desk shields. These three-sided clear dividers allow for schools who have transitioned back to five days of in-person instruction to address the increasing numbers of students in classrooms.
“The social distancing of six feet is what we shoot for, that is the ideal, but as we’re bringing more and more students back, it gets more and more difficult to keep that distance. Plexiglass allows us, with the masks, to move toward three feet and be safe,” Spearman said.
Spartanburg County superintendents Randall Gary, Ron Garner, Jeff Stevens, and Darryl Owings and state representatives including Rep. Rosalyn Henderson-Myers, Rep. Rita Allison and Sen. Scott Talley attended the announcement.
Talley commended the school districts and the state Department of Education for their work in reopening the schools.
“We lost a lot of children in the spring when it was all virtual and they got behind. We took steps to provide funding to address that at the beginning of this school year, but it’s hard to replace (face-to-face) learning. It’s good for these kids; it’s good for their education; it’s good for our economy,” Talley said.
Roebuck Elementary School Principal Jennifer Faulkner said her school, as one of the schools that has gone back to a full-time, in-person schedule, has benefitted from the supplies the state has provided, particularly the plexiglass dividers.
“It gives the students a place to go so that they can take their mask off, they’re not having to wear their mask all during the day. If the teacher does come over to help them, of course she puts her mask on and they put theirs back on, but it’s really created them their own little working space. It’s like a little office,” Faulkner said.