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Charleston Co. School District risks losing funding over mask mandate

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 5:43 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2021 at 8:43 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Governor Henry McMaster continues to defend the state’s budget provisos that bar school districts from mandating face coverings. This comes as Charleston County School District board members double down on their mandate passed in spite of the provisos.

“The General Assembly would have to come back into session to repeal it but I don’t think it’s necessary,” McMaster said. “Anyone who wants to wear a mask is free to wear a mask. Parents are the best experts on their own children. If they want them to wear a mask then by all means they should insist that their child wear a mask.”

On the line for the district are the state funds that help keep it running.

Board member Courtney Waters says the district has done the political calculus and is putting the ball is in the governor’s court.

“I think to play fast and loose with our funding is very irresponsible and I think especially when it comes to it, it really should not be something that is politicized. This is a public health issue,” Waters said. “I think it would be pretty shameful to take funding away from school districts that desperately need it.”

Waters and all but one of her colleagues supported the mandate. Board member Kristen French says this wasn’t a political decision.

“We had an 8-1 vote. I don’t see how you could suggest there is anything partisan going on,” French said. “We are non-partisan elected officials. Obviously we have some differences in our ideologies but I felt that we were relatively unified on this issue.”

Meanwhile, the governor once again articulated his stance that it should be parents not elected officials that tell students what to do.

“They know their child’s situation. They know their child’s social and emotional make up. They know their child better than anyone else so parents must be a major part of this equation,” McMaster said. “If they don’t want their child to wear a mask then they are the experts and they should not be forced by the government to require their child to wear a mask.”

Waters sees it a little differently.

“Ultimately, I think we all feel like we are entrusted with the safety and education of children and they cannot receive an education if they are not safe,” Waters said. “We live in a country that was built on civil unrest and civil disobedience. I think this is a time when somebody has to rise above the political climate to think about what will really carry our community forward and that has to be the safety of our next generation.”

As far as enforcement goes, French says the administrators will have a plan for when class starts on Wednesday.

However, that likely means teachers will have to monitor their own classrooms.

“Putting teachers in this position is regretful but I don’t think we did that I think. I think McMaster did that when he put this proviso in place,” Waters said. “I think that we are making this mask situation into something that it really doesn’t have to be.”

The school district’s decision to implement the mask mandate came during the first of two specially called board meetings this week and a suspension of regular rules to allow the mandate to be pushed through before the start of the year. Board member Lauren Herterich says they still followed all of the rules and heard from parents on both sides.

“I think communication can always be improved but we heard from a number of constituents on both sides of the aisle, whether that was wearing masks or not,” Herterich said. “Again this was about safety for our students and teachers so we moved forward with the decision that we made last night to require masks.”

The mask policy will be in effect until at least Oct. 15

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