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School Districts Prepare for Return of Unmasked Students

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – With just over a month to go into the 2021-2022 school year, school districts in the Midlands have released COVID-19 safety plans. The CDC released updated protocols for schools on Friday, the main point of which is requiring everyone from 2 years old to wear a mask if they are not vaccinated.

Schools in South Carolina cannot require masks for students or staff due to a provision passed with the state budget. The conditional clause states that masks cannot be demanded on school property, otherwise a school may lose funding.

The CDC guidelines also suggested that schools follow guidelines for social distancing, COVID testing and contact tracing, and employ several prevention strategies. SC districts cannot require testing or vaccination, but they can promote and partner with health care providers to host testing or vaccination sites.

“Having things available is good. The warrant is not. We are past that point now, ”Governor Henry McMaster said.

Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr Shane Robbins said his district was ready to regain a sense of normalcy. Kershaw County’s COVID safety plan does not include encouraging the wearing of masks for students and staff, but simply makes mask wearing an option.

“Quite honestly, we ended the school year last year using opt-out forms (for wearing masks) and most of our families took advantage of that,” Robbins said. “So really my plan from the start, and what I shared with our board is that we were going to start this school year by making it optional for students and staff. “

Lisa Ellis, founder of SC for Ed, said some teachers in the state would feel additional pressure to protect students and themselves from the virus, especially with the looming delta variant. Ellis hoped masks would be mandatory in elementary schools this year to protect children under 12 who are not eligible for vaccination.

“We kept asking for support and in terms of, you know, protecting the students and ourselves and that continues not to happen especially at the state level,” Ellis said. “And it really adds to that extra burden for teachers to try not only in a creative environment and in a classroom environment that is inclusive and supportive. You now have that additional physical health problem.

DHEC is currently reviewing the updated CDC guidelines, and the department plans to issue revisions to the guidelines in the coming weeks.

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