Greenville Co. Schools declines to implement mask mandate

Local News

GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) — Greenville County Schools will not be implementing a district-wide mask mandate after a federal ruling stroke down South Carolina’s proviso, saying that it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“When I heard the decision today, yeah I was very angry, but I was also sadly not surprised,” said Amanda McDougald Scott.

McDougald Scott is one the plaintiffs on a lawsuit against the ban on mask mandates. Her son is at risk.

“Unless there’s a mask requirement in place, I don’t see how children with disabilities are going to have equitable access to education,” McDougald Scott said.

According to a release from GCS, virus spread has decreased 40% over the past month.

Greenville County students are responsible for only 5% of COVID-positive school cases in South Carolina this year, even though the district represents approximately 10% of the total student population of the state, according to DHEC.

“Even if COVID numbers are actually going down, it’s not like it’s going away. So, I just once again, I doubt the numbers that the school has reported, and I also think that regardless of it going down, that children still deserve to be protected, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask,” McDougald Scott said.

Roger Meek, Greenville County School Board Chairman said the district has protection for children with disabilities.

“Of course we’re going to abide by the injunction by the federal court. We believe that we have already been doing that in almost all cases, if not all. And if a parent has a concern, please voice it to someone at the school or through their IEP representative, so we can address that,” Meek said.

“Given the dramatic downward trend in GCS, our statistics compared to the state, the recognition that mask mandates are enormously burdensome on principals, teachers, and staff, and the knowledge that monitoring such a mandate takes our employees away from their primary instructional and support duties, the Greenville County Schools’ administration does not intend to implement a district-wide mask mandate at this time,” said Superintendent Dr. W. Burke Royster.  “Instead, we will utilize mandatory masking only in extreme circumstances and on a school-by-school basis.”

Current COVID-19 mitigation strategies in Greenville County Schools, according to the district’s release, include the following:

  • maintain 3-feet of distance whenever possible
  • exclusion from school of students and staff who are COVID positive
  • exclusion from school of unvaccinated students and staff determined to be “close contacts” of a COVID-positive individual
  • rigorous contact tracing to minimize the number of students determined to be “close contacts” and therefore required under DHEC exclusion rules to quarantine
  • visual cues to remind students about handwashing
  • hand sanitizer stations
  • enhanced air exchange protocols
  • options for outdoor lunch
  • limited group gatherings
  • visual reminders to cover coughs and sneezes

“If the current downward COVID spread trend were to reverse district-wide, GCS, with the concurrence of the Board of Trustees, could implement a district-wide mask mandate.  Even without a district-wide mandate, the administration could implement a mask requirement for individual schools or classrooms experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases,” the release said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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