ANDERSON COUNTY, SC (WSPA)–Anderson School District Three is requiring all faculty and staff to wear masks until the end of September.
District leaders said they’re seeing more positive cases this year, than they did last year when masks were actually required.
“Last year, we had limited numbers of positive cases with staff, but really the numbers that concern me more is the student numbers because those were even less, but we’re seeing a greater number of students with actual positive COVID tests,” said Superintendent Kathy Hipp, Anderson School District Three. “It’s only temporary. I want to see those numbers go down. I watch numbers constantly. I watch hospital numbers. I watch our numbers. I watch community numbers, and I think every school district in the Upstate right now is concerned with the uptick and we want to see that downward trend. And once that happens, believe me, nobody wants school to be normal more than I do.”
Teachers and staff are required to wear face coverings in all common areas.
“Common areas would be in the hallways, in the cafeteria when lets say they’re on duty, gym areas, just really in the spaces where you have students passing,” Hipp said.
Hipp said the mandate is in place since students and staff cases are increasing, along with those in quarantine.
“I put out a video with a plea to our parents to voluntarily have their students where masks, and also mandating with our teaching, that they wear a mask in common areas. When they’re in the classroom, they can use their discretion as far as social distancing goes, but I put out sort of a mandate for our staff to wear masks through the month of September,” Hipp said.
As of last Thursday, there were 84 positive student cases, out of 2,670 students in the district. The district’s dashboard also showed 10 staff have tested positive, out of 374 people. The district said last year, it had roughly 10 to 15 students that were actively positive at a time.
“You know, I’ll be the first person to tell you, I don’t like wearing this on my face everyday. I like for the children to see my face, but when I look at what kind of school year we had last year with the mask mandate in place and what I see now, masks definitely, their gamechangers,” said Christy Dodd, Principal at Flat Rock Elementary School.
“Well at this point and time with the numbers rising it’s a good thing just because we can do our part to help keep those numbers down and keep our students safe and ourselves safe. So I’m okay with it,” said Amy Miller, Second Grade Teacher, at Flat Rock Elementary School. “Sometimes I catch myself wearing it in the classroom, when I’m in there by myself. Then I wear it in the classroom most the time when I’m teaching,” Miller said.
Anderson School District Three leaders said they understand what the state proviso states about mask mandates, but said they made the decision in order to keep schools open. For staff who are concerned about the proviso, Hipp said it’s all about safety.
“If their only reason for not putting on a masks is to attach it to a proviso I just don’t think that’s a ligament reason, and when we’re talking about student safety, I think student’s safety trumps just a political issue,” Hipp said.
“And we have a team approach in Anderson School District Three, and it’s kind of a mandate to our team. Put on a mask. If there is a concern with you wearing a mask, I have an open door policy, come talk to me, and we can decide if there’s a reason you don’t need to wear a mask. But in 99 percent of the cases, I can’t find a reason a staff member couldn’t put on a mask while they’re on hall duty or while they’re in the gym, around large groups of people,” Hipp said.
Dodd said the overall response from her staff has been favorable in regards to wearing masks.
“Actually before Mrs. Hipp asked us or told us that on Thursday that we needed to start wearing masks in common spaces, everyday–many of my teachers had already chosen to do that on their own. So our response was very favorable. There was never any question. We wanted to do what was best for our students,” Dodd said.
Dodd also said parents have supported mask wearing for their children, although it’s not a requirement.
“Then we turned around and asked our parents, we encouraged them to have their children wear masks to school and the response has been unbelievable. We’ve had a lot of our children choose to wear their masks to school,” Dodd said. “In everything that we’ve had to do in the last few weeks in response to COVID, our parents have been extremely supportive and everybody has been very kind with us,” Dodd added.