Laurens County School District 56 weighing latest federal court ruling on masks; will continue to monitor cases

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CLINTON, S.C. (WSPA) – School districts across the Upstate are now figuring out what to do in response to the latest ruling from the United States District Court regarding the ban on mask mandates in school.

Superintendent for Laurens County School District 56, David O’Shields, said he did not plan to have to prep for a third year of pandemic school planning.

But explained that his main goal for this school year is to keep kids in school. He said if mask wearing will help to do that, he might be on board with it for a small amount of time while the district works to get numbers under control.

Doctor O’Shields said planning for this school year meant kicking it off with full intentions of making it face to face instruction.

“Little did we realize that we would be three days in… Three days in to the school year we started getting an uptick in cases this year,” said O’Shields.

He said his school board wanted to reach out to the SC School Board Association to see if they’d return or revoke the proviso that keeps schools from issuing a mask mandate.

Adding many students in the district live in rural areas and without virtual being an opportunity, the district is limited.

“And it would be that can we then use masks if we need to and that would be a local district decision,” said Dr. O’Shields.

He said it’s about being able to make the decision locally.

“And only to have as a means and an avenue to say kids in school most important, nobody really likes a mask— but if it will help us have opportunities to continue school, okay we can consider that,” said O’Shields.

Renee Penland has two grandchildren in Laurens County School District 56.

Both of her grandchildren, ages eight and 11, have autism.

She said one of them wants to wear a mask to school.

“I just think it should be left up to the individual parent because they know what’s best for their children,” said Penland.

Governor McMaster shared similar thoughts with 7 News on Wednesday.

“I think it ought to be up to the parents. And under the state law that was studied by the judge, it essentially gave parents the choice,” said Gov. McMaster.

O’Shields said it’s not about being political or divided.

“We only wanted to have opportunities and arrows in our quiver to fight not at any person, but only the demon that is Covid,” Dr. O’Shields said. “Cause it is real.”

But said its about keeping kids in school and healthy.

Superintendent O’Shields said his district will continue to monitor cases across schools before they make any official changes.

He said around the Halloween times and the holiday season will be very telling in whether or not they see an uptick, as that was when they experienced their largest outbreaks during the 2020-2021 school year.

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