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DHEC, teachers against LR5 making masks optional in schools

Updated: May. 5, 2021 at 8:02 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - After a long, controversial battle with Lexington County parents against masks in the classroom, the Lexington Richland School District Five voted to make masks optional.

Teachers and officials with the Department of Health and Environmental Control expressed their disappointment with the school board’s decision.

The school board voted 4 to 2 to lift the mask mandate in District Five.

Teachers are hurt over this because they feel their safety is compromised.

The South Carolina Education Association got a lot of phone calls after the vote from angry teachers calling for legal action.

“A lot of concern. A lot of disappointment. A lot of anger,” SCEA President Sherry East said. “People feel like people don’t care about them. "

Albert Jones, a teacher in LR5, said he’s worried about some teachers leaving over this at a time when there’s already a teacher shortage crisis.

“This year has really weighed on a lot on educators,” Jones said. “Moving forward, we really have to do something and make a pivot. In order for students to be placed in the center, you have to take care of the people who take care of them.”

DHEC’s Dr. Jane Kelly, Assistant State Epidemiologist, said she hopes masks won’t be needed next year because things are looking hopeful with vaccinations increasing and cases decreasing.

“But we’re still seeing positivity hover around 4 to 5%, so it means there is still disease transmission,” Kelly said.

As long as there is transmission, she recommends everyone wear masks.

“Regardless if this is a mandate in your town, city or county -- we know that masks work,” Kelly said.

LR5 reassured parents they still have safety precautions in place like plexi-glass, hand sanitizers, and social distancing.

School district leaders said the optional mask ordinance goes into effect Monday, May 10.

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