COLUMBIA, S.C. — As children return to school in South Carolina while the state is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, one teacher's group is calling for giving local school districts the control to mandate masks in schools as a way to reopen safely.
In a statement sent to media Monday, August 16, the Palmetto State Teachers Association (PSTA) is calling for leadership in all levels of government in South Carolina to "accept the hard truth that a refusal to address the growing public health crisis will endanger the health and development of children."
Already, Pickens County School District announced that it will begin the school year with full distance learning. Richland County Council announced on Sunday it will hold a special-called meeting 6 p.m. Monday to either approve or reject and emergency ordinance that would require wearing masks in public and private school buildings -- covering both of the county's school districts.
PSTA says, "If the Governor and legislature will not take immediate action, local school districts should take bold and decisive action to employ any and all mitigation measures they believe are needed in their community, regardless of any potential financial costs. At this moment, the cost of inaction for student health and development is infinitely greater. While repeal of the face mask proviso would give districts more tools, districts must also utilize far more of the non-mask mitigation strategies identified in the latest DHEC school operations guidance, such as cohorting of students and routinely screening or testing asymptomatic individuals. Unfortunately, our members report that very few districts have plans in place to use these types of measures."
The statement cites South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control's (DHEC) multi-tiered mitigation strategy that includes vaccines, masks and social distancing as direction for reopening in-person classrooms.
"However," PTSA says in its statement, "to do so, we collectively need to put aside partisan talking points, tune out conspiracy theories, turn off cable news, and log off social media. As Governor McMaster has correctly noted, the voices we need to heed right now are the voices of the dedicated health care professionals in our state."
Read the entire statement here: