COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Education has made guidelines regarding face coverings in public K-12 schools as they begin to reopen this fall during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While wearing a mask is required, there are some exceptions. Below is an outline of where face masks are required to be worn and who may be excluded from those requirements.
School Buses and Facilities
Students and staff who ride school buses are required to wear face coverings while boarding, riding, and exiting school buses. Staff members, including bus drivers, are required to wear face coverings while boarding, riding, driving, and exiting school buses.
Students boarding buses without a face mask will be asked to put one on. If they do not have a mask one will be provided for them.
Students and staff in must also wear a face covering upon entering a school building, moving through hallways, during carpool/bus drop off or pickup and when social distancing is not possible or optimal. Student face coverings may be removed upon teacher or administrator direction while in the classroom or during special activities outside the classroom.
Students who should NOT be required to wear face coverings:
- Those younger than two years old;
- Those who have trouble breathing;
- Those unable to remove the covering without assistance; and/or
- Those with special healthcare or educational needs as determined by an Individualized Education Program (IEP), 504 Accommodations Plan, or an individual student healthcare plan, or by a medical doctor
Staff members, including bus drivers, who have trouble breathing and/or those with special healthcare needs as noted by a medical doctor should NOT be required to wear face coverings.
The SCDE recognizes that face coverings may be challenging for some students, teachers, and staff, including younger students, those with severe asthma or other breathing difficulties and those with special educational or healthcare needs, including intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health conditions and sensory concerns or tactile sensitivity.
In these instances, parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers, and school administrators should consider adaptations and alternatives whenever possible. The use of clear face coverings that cover the nose and wrap securely around the face by some teachers and staff may be an option.
Clear face coverings should be determined not to cause any breathing difficulties or over heating for the wearer. Teachers and staff who may consider using clear face coverings include:
- Those who interact with students or staff who are deaf or hard of hearing, per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
- Teachers of young students learning to read
- Teachers of English learners
- Teachers of students with disabilities, as applicable
It is important to note that clear face coverings are not face shields. The CDC does NOT recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings. The following are scenarios in which face shield usage is permitted:
- Face shields may be used to supplement cloth face coverings in those who desire further protection.
- If clear face coverings are not able to be obtained, face shields may be used in place of cloth face coverings in the examples above.
- If a teacher is maintaining greater than six feet of distance between themselves and anyone else while in a fixed location (e.g., their desk or the front of the room), a face shield alone may be used, but the teacher should have a cloth face covering within arm’s reach to be able to put on quickly if necessary.