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Midlands superintendents share thoughts on masking ahead of new school year

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 7:03 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 6, 2021 at 7:16 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A new school year is bringing new rules for school districts across South Carolina.

The South Carolina budget prohibits state funds from being used to enforce a mask mandate in schools.

READ: Here are the temporary SC laws related to COVID-19, schools, masks and vaccines

Richland School District 2 Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis said he was “disappointed” in the General Assembly’s passage of the rule and said it will inhibit his district’s ability to be safe and catch up on lost instruction.

”We need to be able to maximize the instructional time while our students are in the building. Part of that is to going to be able to keep them healthy so they can be in school so that we can make up lost instructional time. That’s going to be a challenge without the ability to put in the number one factor that reduces the spread of COVID, which is the masks,” Davis said. ”So it is somewhat in contradiction of what we are attempting to do, which is to provide our students with the instructional time they need to be successful.”

He said the district’s lawyers have reviewed the rule and found the district can enforce a mask mandate on buses and in health areas (such as nurse’s offices).

“Where we can enforce a mask mandate, we will enforce a mask mandate,” he said.

Lexington School District 1 Superintendent Dr. Greg Little said the district will enforce a mask requirement in health areas, but not on buses.

“We don’t plan on mandating masks on buses because it’s going to be optional everywhere else, we want to be consistent across the board. However, in our health rooms that’s a different situation, especially when a young person may be exhibiting signs of COVID-like symptoms,” he said.

He said he would have preferred the General Assembly allow for local districts to tackle the issue individually, but called his team “flexible.”

He encouraged L1 families to contact a trusted doctor about the best ways to be COVID safe going into the school year.

Lexington Richland School District 5 Interim Superintendent Akil Ross said the district will also be enforcing masks on buses and in health areas.

“We’re going to provide masks to every student on that bus. We’re not going to make a fight of it. We’re trying to get the children to school to learn. We will provide them with a mask, it is required. We also have another imperative, with is to make sure the academic, social, emotional, and physical health of that child is taken care of, so we’re going to get that child to school,” he said.

The district has faced scrutiny over its decisions on masks in the last year, but Ross said no matter a students’ choice on masks or vaccines, they will be welcome.

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“The stress that and the anxiety and all of the worry and the fear that exists outside of that school wall, that classroom door, there is going to be a teacher there that’s ready to receive them, to ask them how they’re doing, and have the resources to support them if the answer is I’m not okay,” he said.

None of the three districts will be impacted by the Columbia state of emergency order which impacts Columbia schools.

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