Charleston Co. parents caught off guard by mask mandate set for January
CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Not a single public comment about the face covering policy was given ahead of the Charleston County School board’s decision to reinstitute its mask mandate.
The lack of input raises questions about the transparency provided by the school board agendas made public before each meeting.
“I was not aware, like many of my fellow CCSD parents,” said parent Jessica Zeigler. “We are left in the dark repeatedly on the mask issue. We had no idea that this was going to be discussed and, again, it’s happening in closed session. So even when we’re in the loop we are not in the loop.”
The board received legal advice in executive session before taking action in front of the public at its Dec. 13 meeting. The mask policy is coded with the letters “ADD” and appears in the agenda as “Receipt of Legal Advice regarding Policy ADD”.
However, that language does not come with any explanation of what the policy is or where it can be found. In previous meetings – as recently as Nov. 8 – mask decisions have been identified as “Receipt of Legal Advice Regarding Face Mask Requirement”, with a link to Policy ADD.
“Had it been more clear then I know parents would have shown up to give remarks,” Zeigler said. “It’s very sneaky to do it right before break, right before Christmas when parents, everyone is really busy. I can’t say that we would have had 100 people show up but there would have been more community engagement on the issue.”
The policy requires students and staff to wear face coverings whenever the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Recent Disease Activity Report rates Charleston County as high or medium. The latest report classifies the county as medium. Whether or not masks will be required when students return in January will be determined by the most recent report received before the end of the year.
While parents like Zeigler are against mask mandates, others believe masks never should have gone away. Rev. EJ Milligan has a grandchild in the district and sits on the District One constituent board. She supports the mask mandate.
“I think it’s a good idea considering there’s an increase in covid cases and a new variant. I think it’s a good idea in order to protect our students, teachers and community,” Milligan said. “If we do not do what is necessary to protect those that are vulnerable then those persons will end up being sick. Even if the carrier isn’t sick, someone else is going to be sick, so we are affecting the community one way or another.”
The district’s policy will remain in effect until at Jan. 14, however the topic is expected to be placed on the agenda at a special meeting on Jan. 10.
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