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SC education dept. reinstating mask mandate on school buses

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 9:17 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2021 at 9:32 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A South Carolina Department of Education spokesman said criticism of the agency’s policy against denying a child who doesn’t follow a mask mandate a ride on a school bus relies on a “false assumption.”

The agency announced Thursday morning it will again enforce a mask mandate ordered in January by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on public transporation, including school buses.

“It has become apparent based on COVID-19 data being reported by schools along with increasing levels of the highly transmissible Delta variant in local communities, that more protective measures are needed to lower the risk of virus transmission and keep our schools open and operating as safely as possible,” the department said in a letter to school district superintendents and transportation directors. The agency said school districts must be ready to comply by Monday.

The agency said it would equip all state-owned school buses with an adequate supply of face coverings that meet CDC order requirements, adding that if a student boards a bus without a face covering, bus drivers should offer a face covering.

“However, no student should be denied transportation for failing to adhere to the CDC Order,” the letter states.

That line drew criticism from some parents who said it was pointless because children who don’t wear a mask still can’t be denied a ride on the bus despite the mandate.

“That is a false assumption,” Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown said. “Students and their families followed this identical CDC Order without issue the entirety of last school year and most districts chose to continue to follow it this year without a state requirement with the same result.”

The state’s education department said in July it would no longer enforce the CDC’s Jan. 29 order requiring the use of face coverings by people on public transportation, which included school buses. It gave school district’s the option to enforce the mandate on their own if they wished to do so.

But it announced Thursday morning the decision to again enforce the order “in an effort to mitigate virus transmission and keep our schools open and operating as safely as possible.”

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