CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A group of parents and community members demanded an end of a mandatory mask rule in schools.
Holding signs with messages like, “Let them breathe,” “Masks should be a choice!” and “The most important school supply is oxygen,” the group gathered outside the Charleston County School District Headquarters on Calhoun Street.
Some of the people who protested outside the school board meeting signed up to speak during the meeting itself.
The board was allowing speakers one minute to state their concerns. One person demanded more time but was denied and was escorted out of the meeting.
The district’s Safe Restart implementation guide, released on March 21, states students and staff “are expected to wear face coverings at all times.”
The plan calls for anyone walking, biking or exiting a vehicle on campus will be required to wear a face covering and students are expected to wear face coverings on school buses.
The guide lists meal times, outdoor activities where 6-foot distancing can be maintained, planned mask breaks and people working in private spaces as possible exceptions.
“Neck scarves, bandanas, gaiters and masks with exhalation valves or vents are not acceptable face coverings and shall not be used,” the guide states.
The district planned to follow the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s guidelines on face coverings as conditions change.
Parents said they wanted their children to be given the choice to not wear masks in school.
“I feel like my kids are missing out on a fundamental and important part of childhood, you’ve got to see people’s faces,” parent Matt Whisnant said.
School district officials said they are taking parents’ concerns into consideration and will be reviewing comments made during the meeting, but they are going to keep the mask rules in place for now.
“Right now, we still have issues with COVID. We still have children that are contracting COVID, there are some serious side effects, or serious illnesses that are potentially created by COVID in our children, and we want to maintain those safety protocols for the last 38 days as it stands right now,” CCSD Chief Operating Officer Jeff Borowy said.
Officials said they are going to continue working with medical professionals and will reassess as they start the next school year, but right now it is too early to tell what will happen once that new school year starts.