S.C. superintendent not told about governor’s announcement on school testing program

Updated: Dec. 11, 2020 at 2:17 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - State Superintendent Molly Spearman, who leads the South Carolina Department of Education, said in an email to the state’s superintendents that she was not given “advance notice” of Gov. Henry McMaster’s announcement about rapid COVID-19 testing for schools.

The newly-released email, obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request, was sent by Spearman on Nov. 20.

The day before McMaster announced he will be issuing an executive order for the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control to provide school districts with COVID-19 rapid testing kits. Spearman was not at that news conference.

“I know that you were caught off guard by the Governor’s announcement,” Spearman wrote to the superintendents. “Unfortunately, we did not have any advance notice. We have been working with DHEC on guidance but none of that has been finalized.”

On Friday, Spearman said she has since talked with McMaster.

“It was an oversight, and an apology came, so I take that apology,” she said. “My reservation was as soon as the governor speaks, everyone listens to his words. There are questions, so parents start calling. And, we were not able to get that out to school districts ahead of time, so that our folks would be prepared to answer questions.”

She said this may be a reason some school districts hesitated to sign on to the program. Right now, 48 out the 81 districts in the state have said they would like tests, and more than 200,000 have already been distributed.

Spearman and McMaster have disagreed on a couple issues since the pandemic began, but she said their relationship is strong.

“Obviously, he has had to make a lot of decisions,” she said. “We don’t always agree on everything, but as far as our relationship, it’s very strong.”

The governor’s office has not responded to requests for an interview.

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