COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — The Palmetto State Teachers Association (PSTA), South Carolina Education Association (SCEA), South Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (SC AAP), South Carolina Association of School Nurses (SCASN) and others are calling for the General Assembly to return for a special session to take up the mask mandate prohibition in South Carolina public schools.
They called a news conference Tuesday morning to discuss this. They said they believe local school districts should have decision making authority over requiring face coverings.
Dr. Robert Saul with SCAAP said when the proviso was put in the state budget by lawmakers in June the Delta variant wasn’t as prevalent in South Carolina. “We need them to use today’s information to make today’s decision.”
The state health department is reporting 21,000 students have had to isolate because of a positive COVID-19 test since the start of the 2021-22 school year. During the 2020-21 school year, a little more than 14,000 students had COVID-19 during the whole school year.
Right now, the South Carolina Children’s Hospital Collaborative is reporting 5 children positive for COVID-19 are on a ventilator in their member hospitals.
PSTA Executive Director Kathy Maness said, “The General Assembly is not a super school board. They need to leave that decision to local elected officials who know what’s best for their local community.”
Speakers during Tuesday’s news conference said this would help keep children in school and keep schools open. Since the start of the school year, DHEC is reporting 86,000+ student quarantines.
We reached out to both House Speaker Jay Lucas and Senate President Harvey Peeler for comment. They did not provide a statement Tuesday.
Governor Henry McMaster has repeatedly defended the proviso. He has said it should be up to the parents to decide whether or not their child wears a mask in school.
Lexington One Superintendent Dr. Greg Little said being able to require masks would help his school district deal with the COVID-19 situation. He said about 2,000 students have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the school year. They had 1,500 students test positive last school year.
He did say it appears weekly new cases are dropping and they may have peaked a few weeks ago but he still believes school districts should be the ones with decision making authority over face covering requirements.
He said, “Hope is not a strategy. Hoping for community spread to go down while we are faced with what we’re facing seems to be a pretty poor strategy on how we plan to approach things.”
The House Republican Caucus will be meeting in Columbia Wednesday, that meeting will be closed to the media and public.
The State Senate will return to Columbia starting October 12th for a special session to take up redistricting and COVID-19 relief money. No word on when the House will take these up.