Spearman: ‘We’re better than this, we’re smarter than this’, top education official urges masks in schools
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) – Charleston and Richland One school districts are the talk of South Carolina as they defied the mask mandate ban and are enforcing masks in their schools.
And Tuesday, state Superintendent Molly Spearman says she agrees with them although she does not advocate breaking the law.
At a press conference Tuesday, Spearman urged lawmakers to repeal the mask ban so school boards would have the choice.
South Carolina’s state epidemiologist says there are already more than 140 cases of COVID amongst students for the first two weeks of in-person school.
There were nine districts open for face-to-face then and does not include the first day of school just Monday. This is causing some concern in state leaders, particularly the state superintendent.
”I don’t think I’ve ever been this concerned,” says Spearman. “And my heart is very very heavy.”
State leaders and pediatricians wanted to drive the message home that masks are necessary as well as vaccines if your student is eligible get one.
South Carolina state law keeps public school districts from enforcing masks in schools. This was backed by Governor Henry McMaster.
But Spearman, Dr. Linda Bell, the state epidemiologist, and the pediatricians say without masks, the outlook could look grim.
Spearman says districts are divided between either most students wearing masks or only a few choosing to mask up.
”We’re better than this. We’re smarter than this. Parents, please listen to your doctors,” says Spearman.
Spearman left nothing to wonder about on her position on masks in schools.
”I disagree with the governor on this. We have got to have a solution to this,” she says.
Her solution? Leaving the decision up to the districts, but since there is a law against that – she only sees two paths forward.
”Either the legislature comes back in and I have asked them to do that continually or this ends up in the courts,” she explains.
The latter option could take time. Time state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell says they do not have.
”We have more cases in South Carolina in schools in less than two weeks of in person learning than in the 13-weeks found in the published studies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” says Bell.
That is why some districts – Charleston and Richland One – took matters into their own hands and enforced masks anyway. We are not seeing that in our districts.
Fort Mill Schools is following DHEC recommendations and state law. Rock Hill Schools will discuss at their next meeting, but is asking for parent’s input.
York District One did not respond. Lancaster Schools says they have no plan right now to mandate masks but will discuss it at Tuesday’s meeting as will Chester Schools. Clover and Chesterfield says it is too early to make a statement on any of it.
”We need to get vaccinated and wear our masks so we can have a normal year,” says Spearman.
McMaster responded to Spearman’s opinion by saying the best way for children to stay in school was for adults to get vaccinated. He is encouraging everyone without a “good reason” to get one so schools can remain open.
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