GCSD COVID-19 Mitigation Advocacy Group push for COVID restrictions in schools

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GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – Governor Henry McMaster and South Carolina state lawmakers now have laws in place to keep school districts from responding to COVID-19 independently.

With only a few days before the new school year starts, some parent organizations are hoping for some changes.

When the school bell rings next week, students will be walking into a different school environment.

“We are concerned by this, it’s very frightening to think of our children going into a classroom. We’re in a critical situation where there is an awful lot of community spread,” GCSD COVID-19 Mitigation Advocacy Group, Charlotte Derbas said.

Derbas and her parent group want lawmakers to take a different look at the limitations put on schools.

The group has turned to writing letters to lawmakers and looking to school officials to be creative about keeping kids safe. 

“Our options are limited by these provisos passes by the legislature. There is so much more that we would like to do,” Greenville County School Spokesperson Tim Waller said.

Recent provisions passed by law makers say only 5-percent of students can receive virtual instruction, snow days have been cut by elected officials to 5 days for the entire year.

Fewer options mean more students in buildings and there won’t be room to distance desks or install plexiglass barriers.

Last school year 23,000 students received virtual instruction, now only 5% of the 75,000 students can learn virtually, meaning only 3500 students can learn virtually this year according to the new mandates.

“The approach of our group is really like a multi-tiered approach, where we are just trying to do advocacy in all different ways in order to change the situation,” Derbas said.

Part of that approach is looking to lawmakers to reconsider mandates, parents will do their part with encouraging students to wear masks and while schools are limited in what they can do, they are doing what they can to keep kids safe.

“We’re going to have our professional staff come in and sanitize each and every classroom. During the day high touch areas, common areas, door knobs, counter tops places were lots of people frequent, will be wiped down regularly. School buses will be sanitized twice a day,” Waller said.

The parent group wants to make sure their students are safe, so in addition to reaching out to school officials they are looking for an attorney to help them figure out their rights.

“We are sealing legal advice, we are watching with interest what the city of Columbia and how that they are getting response from the attorney general,” Derbas said.

School officials say they are willing to listen to creative ideas from parents and will take reasonable suggestions into consideration.  

On school campuses water bottles will be encouraged for students and  while masks are not mandated, they will also be encouraged.

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