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Over 10,000 HCS students opt out of wearing masks in classrooms, district says

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 11:13 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – Thousands of students have opted out of wearing face masks in Horry County classrooms, according to the district.

Horry County Schools provided an update during Monday night’s board meeting on the policy that allows parents and guardians to decide whether a student can opt out of wearing a mask.

Chief Officer of Student Services Velna Allen said a total of 10,360 students have turned in opt-out forms.

Here’s a look at how it breaks down in the district:

  • High schools: 2,729 opted out
  • Middle schools: 2,514 opted out
  • Elementary schools: 5,117 opted out

It comes after Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order last week stating that parents should have the right to choose if their child wears the mask in class. He called on the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the state Department of Education to create an opt-out form for families.

A day after McMaster issued the order, State Superintendent Molly Spearman lifted the statewide mask policy for districts in order to avoid chaos, leaving it up to districts to decide on their own mask policies.

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Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey said a lot of confusion from parents and guardians over why they had to sign the opt-out form since there is no mask mandate. He explained that it’s required by the governor, not the school district.

“We’re following the governor’s orders,” Maxey said.

He also wanted to clarify that the district did not develop the mask opt-out forms and does not have the authority to change anything on the forms.

“Horry County Schools did not develop the opt-out form, and to be clear, we have no authority to change it or to add a date range to it,” Maxey explained.

He said that only unaltered forms were being accepted, and parents could not make changes to what is on the form.

Meanwhile, the district realized that some families would feel uncomfortable with the new mask policy and gave them the option to have their children do independent learning from home for the rest of the school year.

Parents have until midnight Monday to submit a request to their school’s principal.

Allen said that as of Monday afternoon, 584 students have requested to work from home.

Here’s a look at how it breaks down in the district:

  • High schools: 480 students
  • Middle schools: 67
  • Elementary schools: 37

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