THE LIST: School districts, colleges now requiring face masks for students, staff
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control tracks a growing number of COVID-19 cases statewide, several colleges and school districts are imposing mask mandates.
A temporary law passed with the state budget, known as Proviso 1.108, prohibits school districts from requiring masks in the classroom. That law remains in effect, but the South Carolina Democratic Caucus and Education Superintendent Molly Spearman have called for lawmakers to return to the Statehouse for a special session to repeal it. Despite the law, some school districts across the state have imposed mask mandates.
The South Carolina Supreme Court, meanwhile, ruled Tuesday that another proviso did not prohibit colleges and universities in the state from requiring masks, saying the intent of that proviso, as written, was to prevent mask requirements only for those who were not vaccinated. The proviso, the ruling states, does not prevent institutions of higher learning from implementing a universal mandate. When news of the ruling came down, several colleges and universities announced mask mandates for their students this fall.
Here is an updated list of the schools and colleges where mask mandates have been implemented.
Charleston County School District
The school district’s decision to implement a 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 Courtney Waters says the district did the political calculus and is putting the ball is in the governor’s court even as the district risks losing some state funding because of the mandate.
“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 on Tuesday. “I think it would be pretty shameful to take funding away from school districts that desperately need it.”
The mask mandate for Charleston County students will remain in place at least through Oct. 15, district officials said.
Colleton County School District
The Colleton County School Board voted Tuesday night to suspend a temporary policy and instructed district staff to implement a face covering requirement effective immediately, district spokesman Sean Gruber confirmed. The requirement is in place for all staff, students and visitors in all school district facilities and on district transportation.
“This decision was made in consideration of the spread of the extremely contagious COVID-19 delta variant and following recommendations released by the South Carolina Department of Education, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the Centers for Disease Control,” Gruber said.
The mandate is in effect through at least Oct. 19.
University of South Carolina
University of South Carolina Interim President Harris Pastides released a statement Tuesday following the state Supreme Court decision saying the mask requirement will go into effect immediately.
“On July 23, we were the first institution in the state to mandate face coverings,” his statement read in part. “I will require the use of face coverings in our buildings, effective immediately, as an effective strategy in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”
UofSC announced it would withdraw the policy after South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said the college was breaking the law. But the mask mandate was reinstated after the high court ruling.
“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of all members of our Gamecock community to help protect ourselves and others by adopting sound public health practices as we continue our efforts to safeguard our campus against this still-evolving health concern,” Pastides said.
College of Charleston
The College of Charleston Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to implement a mask mandate for students after the state Supreme Court released its ruling in the UofSC case.
It will now be up to CofC President Dr. Andrew Hsu to finalize the protocol.
Trident Technical College
Trident Technical College now requires masks for everyone, regardless of their vaccination status, while indoors on campus.
“Masks are not required outside or when individuals are alone in their offices or work spaces,” Trident Tech spokesman David Hansen said on Tuesday night. “This policy is subject to change at any time based on changes in transmission rates in our area and guidance from federal and state health agencies.”
Charleston Southern University
Charleston Southern University announced a mask mandate on Aug. 9. The guidelines specify face coverings are required in all campus buildings until the current COVID-19 surge passes.
South Carolina State University
South Carolina State announced Wednesday it would require face coverings on its campus.
“All faculty, staff, students and visitors are required to wear masks inside all university buildings, except in personal offices, individual campus residence hall rooms and while eating,” the university said in a notice Wednesday.
S.C. State previously delayed classes by one week to develop and update safety protocols. Classes were to have begun Wednesday. They are now set to begin on Monday.
Coastal Carolina University
Coastal Carolina University’s Board of Trustees voted on Tuesday night to implement a mask mandate on the school’s campus.
As of Wednesday, everyone, regardless of vaccination status, is required to wear a mask indoors, except in individual residence rooms, private offices and if eating and drinking in the dining hall. Masks must also be worn on university shuttle buses.
Clemson University announced Tuesday night it will require masks in all of its statewide buildings including classrooms, instructional facilities, offices, labs, and residential and dining halls, except while people are eating or in private spaces.
The requirement will remain in effect for three weeks.
Francis Marion University
Students, faculty and staff at Francis Marion University are now required to wear masks in all indoor and public areas on campus. The university announced the mandate Tuesday after the state Supreme Court ruling.
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