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Lexington One surveys parents on whether or not to impose mask mandate

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 10:19 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - This week, nearly 4000 Lexington School District One students are out of the classroom, either due to COVID-19 positive cases or quarantine.

123 staff members are impacted as well. These numbers are down 29 percent since September 1. But with community spread still high, the district sent a two-question survey to parents asking them whether it should impose a temporary mask mandate.

L1 Superintendent Dr. Greg Little said that while the decision about whether to impose a mask mandate will ultimately fall on the Lexington District One Board of Trustees, he feels it’s important for members of the L1 community to have their voices heard.

“The purpose of the survey is really just to take a temperature of what people believe,” he said. “We often hear from, whether you show up at a board meeting or whether you email or whatever that looks like, but we wanted to give our community an opportunity to provide feedback, to really understand what people would be willing to do with masks if we had an option.”

He stressed that there is no imminent action on a temporary mask mandate, and the responses from the survey will become part of the larger conversation for the board to consider as it continues to deliberate ways to slow the spread of the virus.

The message that went out to district families prefaced the survey by acknowledging that “masks remain a hot-button issue throughout our country.” It also noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control recommend mask-wearing in schools.

The text of the survey reads:

Which of the following statements do you agree with most?

  • The Lexington District One Board of Trustees should consider temporarily requiring masks in times of high community spread (as designated by DHEC) in order to maximize face-to-face learning.
  • Masks should remain optional in Lexington District One Schools, and the Lexington District One Board of Trustees should not consider temporarily requiring masks regardless of circumstances.”

The key portion for Little is this idea of maximizing face-to-face learning. He said it’s difficult to make decisions around masking, which has become so politicized. Little said this is not about being for or against masks, but “for staying in school.”

“For me, this is about staying in school and when you have nearly a third of your students who are out of school, that’s not being very successful in our mission,” he said. And so that’s really when I think about masks it’s really about staying in school. But no, again, I want to be very clear there’s not an imminent action to be made about that. That will go before the board and the board will ultimately make that decision.”

Claire Tidwell, the parent of two elementary school children in the district, hopes that the board will make the decision to mandate masks.

One of her children is in quarantine right now. She is advocating for a temporary mask mandate in light of the survey as it would not only help mitigate virus spread but provide stability for families who’ve had to juggle in-person instruction with virtual learning due to high quarantine numbers.

“From my perspective as a parent with two children in elementary schools who are not eligible for vaccines, I am really hoping that they do have something in mind and I have emailed them, you know, several times and spoken at a board meeting, that sort of thing, that I am highly in favor of mask mandates.”

Little said it’s valuable to hear from L1 parents both staunchly for and against masks in schools.

“It’s a healthy place to be where you’re having conversations, especially about something that impacts so many people,” he said.

Last week the district had nine schools in an e-learning posture, which equates to one-third of its students. This week that number is three: Gilbert Elementary School, Gilbert Middle School, and Carolina Springs Middle School.

RELATED STORY | DHEC releases new guidelines for when schools should switch to virtual learning

Gilbert Elementary returns to the classroom on Thursday, while the other two will be e-learning until Monday, September 20.

Though a mask mandate is not on the table currently, the district does encourage mask-wearing of all students, not throughout the entire school year, but particularly in periods of high community spread. Officials say this will help ensure more students are in the building, and fewer are learning virtually.

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