School District of Oconee County discusses possible mask mandate

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OCONEE COUNTY, SC (WSPA)–The School District of Oconee County discussed a possible mask mandate at a special called board meeting on Tuesday night. The district’s meeting agenda stated it’s due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

“I think it’s a good idea just because the increase in everybody getting COVID. And I don’t know, I’ve had a lot of family members get COVID and I’m worried about the kids bringing home to my family members. So I think it’s a good idea,” said Halie Harris, a parent.

“I don’t agree with it and I’m glad that she’s no longer in school,” said Jill DeBlasio, resident. “You can go out to dinner and eat at a restaurant and not have your mask on, why can’t the kids be at school without their masks on?” she said.

“I just think they are not prone to get this virus. They are not contagious. There’s absolutely no reason to put mussels on our children,” said Paula Johnson, resident. “Because I believe that masks are really bad for children. I believe that they need to be able to see people’s faces so they can learn expression and learn how people relate to each other. I also think that they’re breathing in air that’s not good for them,” Johnson said.

Around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the district’s dashboard showed close to 500 positive cases so far this year. It also revealed more than 80 have been employees and 415 have been students.

“I’m really scared that I’m going to get it and I’m going to take it to my kids at my school,” Harris said.

Tuesday’s dashboard also showed within the last seven days, there have been more than 220 cases, and more than 40 closures. The shutdowns include classrooms, grade levels, and sports teams.

“I think it’s a good idea just because the increase in everybody getting COVID. And I don’t know, I’ve had a lot of family members get COVID and I’m worried about the kids bringing home to my family members. So I think it’s a good idea,” Harris said.

“I think that’s a good idea for the children and the teachers. Just a good idea to protect everybody around,” said Hannah Crain, resident.

Oconee County Emergency Management leaders also said there’s a significant increase in numbers across the board.

“So Oconee County is seeing a significant increase in numbers. Right now, we are presently almost at the same numbers with the largest spike that we’ve had recently incline as we did in January, February of last year. We had a large spike during that period and then we had a large decrease coming through that time,” said Scott Krein, Director of Oconee County Emergency Services. “The population is a little bit younger. It is definitely significantly affecting the unvaccinated more in the area. Our hospitalizations have significantly increased also. And their seeing the same demographic change.”

Krein also said within the last ten days there have been 932 cases with an average of 93 positives per a day.

Some people said they want children to mask up immediately due to the increase, while others disagree.

“Until the numbers start going down. I would much rather them wear masks and stay in school then have to do e-learning,” Harris said.

“Don’t do it, that’s what I would say,” Johnson said. “Yeah, I’m glad the school board is meeting and it’s really important for every town to address this and I hope that most towns agree that children need to be free without diapers on their faces.”

The Board of Trustees took no action on a possible mask mandate Tuesday.

The board tabled the matter pending a decision from the South Carolina Supreme Court, which is currently considering two lawsuits related to school mask mandates.

The school district sent out this statement on the meeting:

The School District of Oconee County Board of Trustees met for a special called board meeting Tuesday, August 31st, 2021. The purpose of this meeting was to consider the possibility of a mask mandate for staff and students in response to legal cases currently before the SC Supreme Court. Earlier in the day, the Court considered arguments in two cases that involve the implementation of mask mandates in K-12 schools but adjourned without issuing a decision. The SDOC Board of Trustees listened to 30 minutes of public comment from parents and community members. Dr. Thorsland gave an update on the current COVID-19 situation in schools. Following the update, board members discussed the current situation and asked questions about what the implementation of a mask mandate would involve. The Board took no action at the meeting; instead expressing the desire to wait for a decision from the SC Supreme Court before considering the possible implementation of a mask mandate.

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