COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said Wednesday that she’s encouraging state lawmakers to reconsider the law that bans South Carolina schools from requiring masks inside their buildings.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed a temporary law in the state budget that prevents school districts from requiring students and staff to wear masks.
“I would encourage the legislators to look at it closely and to give that decision to the local districts,” Spearman said.
She said she expects the law will “go to the courts and that the court will settle the question: Is that a local decision or does the General Assembly have that authority?”
School districts can choose, however, whether or not they want to enforce mask wearing on buses. The state will not enforce it.
“They are at the local level, if they want to enforce the mass wearing on buses, they have the ability to do that,” she said.
Charleston, Dorchester District Four, Colleton, and Beaufort County School Districts are requiring masks on buses during the upcoming school year. Dorchester District Two, Berkeley, Georgetown, and Williamsburg County School Districts are not requiring them on buses.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control said, as of Tuesday, there were 85 cases of COVID-19 associated with schools across the state. In the last couple weeks, dozens of high school football players in Charleston and Berkeley County have had to quarantine after positive tests on their teams.
“Sports are very important, and we want those activities to go on like normal. The best way is for those parents of those athletes to talk with their doctors, and I would encourage them to get the vaccine,” she said. “It is the parents choice, but I think they need to do that in consultation with their family doctor.”
When asked if the COVID-19 vaccine would ever be required for students and staff, Spearman said she wouldn’t have the authority to do that.
“I don’t foresee that happening, but we’ll we’ll just have to wait and see. That’s a health question,” she said. “But I don’t see us ever requiring the vaccine for students or employees.”
Spearman is encouraging it though for all eligible students and staff.
“The number one thing that we can do right now is to get the eligible children and the eligible employees vaccinated,” she said. “I would say today to parents, ‘Please, please speak with your pediatrician. There’s a lot of information out there. Some of it is not true, and you need to talk with the experts -- your family doctor, your pediatrician -- about getting your child and about you getting vaccinated. That’s what will stop this spread.’”
She also said the department’s number one priority, other than getting kids back in the classroom “is to accelerate the learning.”
“It’s accelerating learning, a lot of high dosage tutoring,” she said. “I think we’re doing a good job of spending our federal money on academic loss and helping students to accelerate that learning. Summer camps were held. Summer schools were held all across the state with record numbers.”
Most Lowcountry school districts reopen to students this week.
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