- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 15, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina’s public school districts are getting more than $84 million in federal aid to help get facilities reopened amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, officials announced this week, as some of the state’s largest districts shut off in-person learning due to rising case numbers.

According to the Department of Education, the funding from the Coronavirus Relief Fund may be used for safety measures and personal protective equipment, hiring of school nurses, hiring of staff to provide one-on-one instruction and support services for struggling students, and technology equipment to support online learning.

The funding is beginning to be allocated this week, officials said.

“Our teachers, nurses, and school staff have gone above and beyond to support students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said in a statement. “These funds are to be used to maintain and support their efforts to welcome additional students back safely for face to face instruction and meet the needs of those that are struggling both online and in the classroom.”

The money is in addition to more than $194 million in CARES Act funds that have already been allocated to South Carolina school districts, state Education Department officials said.

A growing number of the state’s school districts that had been operating a hybrid of in-person and online learning have announced plans to move students back out of the classroom, even as Gov. Henry McMaster has insisted schools maintain in-person learning options five days a week. On Monday, Richland One and Two, two large districts in the Columbia area, announced they would revert to all-virtual classes for at least the first two weeks of January, citing the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community.

Other districts throughout the state have announced similar plans.

The moves come as doses of the first coronavirus vaccine began arriving in the state. On Monday, some nurses at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston were vaccinated, and officials said clinicians with the Roper St. Francis Healthcare system, also in Charleston, would be vaccinated Tuesday afternoon.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in South Carolina has risen over the past two weeks from about 1,405 new cases a day on Nov. 29 to 2,872 new cases a day on Dec. 13, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

On Monday, the health department reported 2,364 confirmed cases and 11 additional deaths. The state has seen at least 236,785 cases and 4,398 deaths due to the virus since the start of the outbreak, state health officials have said.


Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.


Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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