COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said she is cautiously optimistic as more students are gearing up to head back to school in South Carolina.
“We want a normal year. But things have changed drastically in the last few weeks with the spread of the variant. I am concerned about our children and our teachers,” she said.
As of Wednesday morning, nine school districts in South Carolina have started their new academic year. Superintendent Spearman said positive COVID-19 cases and quarantines are being reported at some of these schools.
“Honestly, the numbers have been very concerning. Those districts that have been back in school two or three weeks are already seeing pretty large number of students testing positive and having to quarantine,” she said.
According to the state health department, since the start of the month, there have been 85 confirmed COVID-19 cases associated with South Carolina schools. DHEC said they’ll update this dashboard twice a week.
Superintendent Spearman said she is strongly encouraging families to get their eligible children vaccinated. “That would help tremendously for keeping the schools safe. Also if someone is positive, then that means your child won’t have to be quarantined and they can have a more normal year,” she said.
Spearman said schools will also be following DHEC guidance for distancing and cleaning. Students in South Carolina can wear masks if their parents want them to in school.
Right now, a proviso in the state budget prohibits school districts from using state funds to implement and enforce a mask mandate. Spearman said, “It sets a very simple directive that they can’t do it.”
Spearman said she would not be surprised if a school district challenges the mask mandate ban. “Ultimately this question of who is in charge of the safety of the children will be handled by a decision of the courts,” she said.
You can watch our full interview with Superintendent Spearman below: