McMaster mask order splits Lowcountry school districts on enforcement

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 8:24 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Some school districts in South Carolina say they will continue to enforce their mask regulations until they receive further guidance from the state.

On Tuesday afternoon Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order to allow parents to decide whether their children will wear face masks in the classroom.

In an emergency special-called Charleston County School District Board of Trustee meeting Wednesday afternoon, the board stated the district would comply with the governor’s executive order to allow parents and legal guardians to fill out a waiver from DHEC, permitting their children not to wear face coverings in our schools.

“As a Board of Trustees, we must comply with the executive order to allow for facemask waivers, but we use this opportunity to earnestly appeal to all parents to allow the successful protocols put in place for this most unusual year to remain in place for this school year,” the CCSD board said in a statement. “Teachers and staff have respected students and families all year long by serving children five days per week. We are strongly urging all families to respect teachers by having your child wear a face mask for the remainder of the school year.”

The district said the waiver will affect all CCSD schools for students starting tomorrow, Thursday, May 13, 2021.

“The official DHEC waiver form is the only acceptable document for opt-out,” CCSD officials said. “This form must be completed for each child and presented to the school. A link to the form can also be found on the CCSD website.”

“Please know Policy ADD remains in effect for employees and students (except for those students whose parents have completed and submitted the DHEC waiver form),” the district said. “Additionally, ALL students are still required to wear a mask on school buses, per federal regulations.”

In addition, Dorchester District 2 officials also stated they would be continuing to follow the established policies concerning masks and citied clarification from the governor’s office.

“Brian Symmes, Governor McMaster’s spokesperson, has clarified that existing rules requiring students to wear masks may remain in place until the form for parents is developed,” DD2 officials said. “The Governor expects this to be done very quickly. Therefore, Dorchester District Two will continue to adhere to the established policies concerning masks.”

The Berkeley County School District says they will comply with the governor’s recent executive order regarding face coverings. They say, “Until such time as required waivers are received, schools will not require masks while students are at their desks, enjoying outdoor activities, and other times where social distancing is achieved.”

However, the BCSD says they are awaiting further guidance from The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on the required waiver form to opt out of wearing face coverings.

The Georgetown County School District also released a short statement saying they would comply with face mask requirements for schools and buses until further guidance is received from the state.

Colleton County School District officials say they recommend following DHEC mask wearing and social distancing guidelines, and will still follow its board-approved, local face covering policy.

“However, all CCSD parents/students of legal age who wish to opt-out of wearing a face mask should complete the form provided by DHEC on its website and send it to their school,” Colleton County schools officials said. “Please note that this order does not change existing face mask requirements for students riding on school buses. Students are still required to wear face masks on school buses.”

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