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Schools get off to 'great' start
600 new students join district
Effingham County School District

RINCON — According to Superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford, Effingham County students answered the opening bell of the 2021-22 school year Thursday with enthusiasm.

“Today is a great day for us,” he said while addressing the Rotary Club of Effingham County at The Herald Center.. “I think the first day each year, aside from graduation and the last day of school, I think our teachers and staff would say day one of school is the greatest day of the year. You see children coming back with smiles on their faces because they are really excited to be in school.”

Effingham County began the new year with about 13,500 students. That total includes approximately 600 new registrations.

“That’s the highest number that I can remember that we’ve had on one summer,” Ford said. “... I think it was about 250 last year and the prior year it was about 480.”

Ford suspects that some of the influx of new students is because Effingham County is operating its schools as close to normal as possible during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. The wearing of masks remains option for students, staff and visitors.

“I don’t know exactly where they are all coming from” Ford said. “I’ve got our student registration folks running queries to find out, ‘Are they all coming from Chatham (County)? Are they coming from out of state? I’ve talked to several parents, two in particular (Wednesday)that came down from North Carolina because they want school face to face.

“They haven’t been to school since March 2020 and they have not seen a teacher except through a computer for 18 months and they just felt like that was not best for their child.

“I would assume, based on those conversations, that we are getting some of that.”

Ford said the rate of COVID-19 transmissions in the county is currently about the same as it was in January.

“We’re about 27 or 28 cases as of (Wednesday) on a seven-day rolling average based on a 100,000 population,” he said. 

About 3,000 students opted for virtual learning at the start of the 2020-21 school year. That option is only available for students in the Homebound program this year.

“Homebound has been around forever and it’s signed off on by a doctor who says, for whatever reason, ‘The child cannot go to school.’ We will provide some work online but then we will send a teacher into the home three to five hours per week. That’s traditional Homebound,” Ford said.

Ford said only a few parents have requested that a virtual option be restored.

“We may have lost some students who may have moved on to other districts because they have made decisions that they believe is best for their family — and we respect that,” he said.

Ford and the Effingham County Board of Education believe classroom learning is optimal.

“I will argue with you, though, that, for the masses,  face-to-face instruction and kids being able to go into the school building and develop social skills — learn how to get in line, learn what the rules are — is important for them to be successful in life,” the superintendent said.