School field trips still exist, even during a pandemic.

Well, at least in our house.

Like many of you, our family is still working through a most unusual school year, trying to make the best of things amid unprecedented times. It seems like just about every county and district in the Palmetto State is doing something different in regard to how they are handling school during COVID-19.

Some districts are back to five-day-a-week in-person learning, while others are doing a hybrid model where youngsters do a mix of in-person and virtual class. And a large number of kids across South Carolina are doing virtual school full time. I think we all realize this situation isn’t ideal, but these aren’t normal times. Teachers and students (and parents) are doing their best to ride this thing out safely, and we’ll eventually get on the other side of COVID-19.

My daughter, Charley, a sixth-grader who turned 12 this week, is doing a hybrid model with school, going to in-person classes two days each week and doing virtual learning at home the other three days. What this means, in part, is that I spend at least three days each week reliving the sixth grade as I try to help her with her work. Last week I learned a lot about Alexander the Great and the hydrological cycle. Math, as it was 30 years ago, remains a problem. Of course, my daughter is doing the “new math.” I never mastered the “old math.”

But a few days ago, during one of her virtual school days, we made time for a little field trip. Let’s call it an extension of civics class. I took her with me to the local elections and voter registration office, where I cast my ballot for the general election.

As you are likely well aware, early voting is up and running in South Carolina. Of course, early voting has long been a part of elections, but it’s seen ramped up interest his year because of COVID-19, with many people hoping to avoid exposure to big crowds on Nov. 3. The General Assembly passed a measure in September that essentially allows for “no excuse” absentee voting amid the coronavirus.

While thousands across the state have requested mail-in absentee ballots, I decided to vote in person and took my daughter with me to observe a piece of what will undoubtedly be a historic election, considering all the circumstances.

Now, obviously not all counties are created equal in terms of resources, interest, etc. But when we went to our local elections office — in Lexington County — on a Tuesday afternoon, we found quite a crowd on-hand exercising the right to vote. In fact, the line snaked out of the building, down the sidewalk and around the corner.

But the length of the line was a little bit deceptive, because of social distancing. I have to give my fellow citizens credit, they took coronavirus precautions seriously, leaving the requisite 6 feet of space (or as close to that as possible) between each other in line. Also, literally everyone in line, including my daughter and me, was wearing a face mask, as were all the elections employees and volunteers.

Despite the length of the line — I estimated there were about 75 people in front of me, with many filling in behind — things flowed pretty smoothly. In all, it took us about 40 minutes from the time I got in line until I cast my ballot, and Charley and I talked about the voting process throughout the visit. The only real hiccup is that the elections office was right next to a Cook Out restaurant and the smoke from their grill kept blowing over while we were on the sidewalk. We hadn’t had lunch, so our mouths were watering by the time we were finished.

And let me say, there is one part of pandemic voting that I hope will actually stick around in years to come, after COVID-19 is gone: The Q-tips that are distributed for touching the computer screen and placing your votes. It’s more sanitary and it works like a charm.

So that was our little hybrid school field trip. A bit of civics mixed with a dash of history. And yeah, we got burgers afterward.

Chris Trainor is a contributing columnist for the Index-Journal. Contact him at You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisTrainorSC. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.