For the first time in more than a year, every Horry County public school will be fully reopened next week for in-person instruction.
HCS has been steadily reopening schools five days per week since early February, starting with elementary schools, and the district announced Wednesday that SOAR Academy, formerly the Horry County Education Center, will fully reopen starting Tuesday, April 27.
SOAR Academy and Socastee High — which reopens Monday — are the last remaining schools, of the 55 in the district, still operating on a hybrid schedule, with students allowed to attend in-person classes two days per week, which was how all schools in the district operated during first semester.
The district has reopened schools as it completed installation of plexiglass barriers on all student desks, a decision made to restrict the spread of COVID-19 that has come under criticism from some parents and teachers who argue the barriers hinder student learning.
Superintendent Rick Maxey said during Monday’s school board meeting that he’ll be the happiest person in the county when the district is permitted to allow students in school full time without the barriers or face coverings, and that’s the direction they’ll move as soon as it’s approved by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
HCS, along with all public schools in South Carolina, closed its buildings in March 2020 as coronavirus began spreading throughout the state and remained closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.
The district has confirmed more than 2,300 COVID-19 cases during the school year, including 50 current student and eight current staff cases, according to its online dashboard.
School reopenings do not impact students enrolled at HCS Virtual. The window for parents to decide whether or not to enroll their children in HCS Virtual for the 2021-22 school year opened Monday and will close April 30.