GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – It’s been just over a month since the school year started and in that time more than 7,500 students in South Carolina have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
7 News spoke with the superintendent of the Greenville County School District.
Dr. Burke Royster said despite the pandemic and all the challenges associated with it the district is doing “exceptionally well.”
From his office in downtown Greenville, Royster explained how complex it is running the state’s largest school district in a pandemic with so many opinions and a state legislature that funds and controls nearly all aspects of the public schools.
He said his office hears from parents who want the district to do more to protect children and those who think it’s doing too much and want no masks and no vaccinations.
Those parents who want more to be done point to the Charleston County School District that started a mask requirement Monday by using reserve funds to pay staff members tasked with compliance.
That district’s administration said that approach would keep them in compliance with a state budget proviso since no funds from this years budget would be used to enforce the requirement.
Royster said that is not something his district would consider.
“We don’t believe that it would be legal even if you were looking for ways to strictly follow this definition to not use state funds. The (SC Supreme) court’s decision seemed to go a little bit broader than just using state funds,” he said.
One step the district may be forced to take is to require vaccination for teachers and staff under President Joe Biden’s new OSHA workplace vaccine requirement order.
While Royster awaits direction from the state on that matter, he touted the vaccination clinics the district held for staff ahead of the school year.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why our employee isolation, that is tested positive, is 2.3 percent,” he said.
Royster receives daily reports on how many students and staff are positive.
While acknowledging how the delta is expected to surge and decline over the course of time, he sees promise in the numbers recently.
“Our numbers over the past week indicate we may be on a downhill side,” he said.
Burke believes the decline is partly due to being diligent in contact tracing.
He explained that sending an entire class home is not the right approach when a student tests positive.
He said instead students who are exposed and test negative between the fifth and seventh day can return on the eighth day.
“That’s getting students back in class sooner but still safely.”