CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District is considering requiring all students to wear a face mask next school year, Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait announced on Friday.
“As a student steps on to the bus, we think they should have a mask on. When they are properly seated in their assigned seat they could take the mask off. They would need to put it on again before getting off the bus,” Postlewait said. “From the time children step foot on the school property and begin to enter the school, they need to be wearing a mask. They need to keep their mask on until they are in their classroom and at their seats. Then, they can take the mask off.”
Postlewait added there are some exceptions for children who may have underlying health conditions where wearing a mask is not recommended.
The announcement came during a Safe Restart Task Force meeting. That committee is made up of school district, community, and health representatives, and their main goal is to create a plan for reopening schools safely.
Chief Operating Officer Jeff Borowy also showed some possible designs of how classrooms may look in August. With plexiglass in place, he said many elementary school classrooms could fit 24 students safely, and with desks spread out in high schools, they could fit up to 17 safely.
5,000 sheets of plexiglass have been ordered, and Borowy said it will take all summer to install them.
Bathrooms and high-touch surfaces will also be disinfected twice a day, Borowy said. Buses will be cleaned between the morning and afternoon runs and after the last student is dropped off.
“We analyzed all of our fresh air equipment,” Borowy said. “Keeping fresh air maximized going into the school is a desire, and we’ve got funding in place and a plan in place to replace the equipment that has been identified for repair at every single school.”
All students will also be given the option to learn virtually next school year even if in-person classes resume, Chief Academic Officer Karolyn Belcher said.
“The K-12 school is designed for those families that think it isn’t the right time to send their children back to school,” Belcher said. “Right now, our plan is to allow magnet or school choice families to maintain their position in their current school, so when they do feel it is safe they can send their child back to school.”
The online programs will not necessarily be connected to their home school, but the child will still be enrolled in there. AP courses will also be offered through this platform.
The school district is still considering a split-schedule, meaning some days students are at home learning and other days they are in the classroom. This got some push back from some parents on the call.
“It’s easier as a parent if things are consistent,” parent and teacher Heather Burke said. “If things are constantly changing every week in terms of finding childcare when they’re not at school, it’s more difficult when it’s always different.”
“I don’t know how manageable that would be or how realistic,” parent Tiffani Bush said.
The task force is set to meet again soon and their final report will be presented to the school board on July 20.