GREENVILLE, SC ( FOX Carolina ) - With the school year only a few weeks away in Greenville County, a representative from the school system says the timing of DHEC's new COVID safety guidelines have blindsided them.

And parents are wondering how this will affect their children.

Greenville County Public Information Officer Tim Waller says they're preparing for the school year with a lot on their plate.

Waller says the information was dropped overnight to news outlets before the district could even review it.

"We were sorely disappointed that DHEC decided to drop these back-to-school recommendations—these important recommendations at three o'clock in the morning," Waller said.

He says they were expecting this information a while ago.

"We thought it was poor form," Waller continues, "We have been begging for weeks to get that information to us."

DHEC's new guidelines encourage mask wearing for students and stuff, plus three feet of distance.

Greenville County parent Tanisha Sullivan says she's not sure what else will work to prevent the spread of the virus.

"I don't see anything that they can do other than the mask wearing and keeping the kids six feet apart," Sullivan said.

Marquee McKinney is a father of four children. He says schools should follow the recommendations.

"To be safe, with the numbers rising. I don't have a problem with it. Do whatever to keeps each other safe so we won't have to go and completely shut down again,"  McKinney said.

Waller explains that the law has tied their hands when it comes to restricting what school districts can do to keep kids safe. For example, they can't enforce mask-wearing. Plus, Waller says they have to do five-day, in-person instruction while limiting the number of students that can join the virtual program to five percent. He says with about 74,000 students, legislation limits them to, now, only 3,700 that can do online learning versus the 23,000 who learned virtually previously. 

This, among other things, is why McKinney says he opted to homeschool his child after trying virtual learning during the pandemic.

"I really don't think he was being challenged enough, for one. And two, I didn't feel comfortable. So, I just pulled him out and let him do it at his own pace," said McKinney.

Sullivan says if parents can opt out of their kids wearing masks, it's not enough.

"With the new variant coming out, the new strand of COVID, I think that it would be much safer to keep the kids out of school," Sullivan said.

Waller says the school system will follow the recommendations as close as they can. And they will socially distance by three feet whenever possible. However, depending on the architecture of the school building and the population of students, it may be difficult to fir them all in the classroom. They can't guarantee it in the cafeteria either.

"We hope this will be more of a normal looking or feeling school year for students when they get back in the classroom. We're going to do everything we can to keep people safe."

The school system says they can only have five, e-learning days as it pertains to CVOID-19. So, if cases spike, their hands might be tied yet again.

Greenville County schools start class on Aug. 17.

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