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Masks in schools: Where do SC districts stand?

After Lexington-Richland School District 5 voted to make wearing face masks optional in the classroom, we asked other area school districts about their policy
Credit: File

COLUMBIA, S.C. — With about five more weeks of school left to go, some Midlands area school districts are still struggling with the issue of students wearing face masks in classrooms.

At a school board meeting on Wednesday, May 4, Lexington-Richland School District 5 decided to make facemasks optional in classrooms. The CDC's latest recommendation for schools (updated April 21, 2021) follows: 

Regardless of the level of community transmission, it is critical that schools use and layer prevention strategies. Five key prevention strategies are essential to safe delivery of in-person instruction and help to prevent COVID-19 transmission in schools:

  1. Universal and correct use of masks
  2. Physical distancing
  3. Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
  4. Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities
  5. Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine

Schools providing in-person instruction should prioritize two prevention strategies:

  1. Universal and correct use of masks should be required
  2. Physical distancing should be maximized to the greatest extent possible.

WLTX reached out to other school districts in the Midlands and asked about their policies.

Lexington One

"Since the beginning of this pandemic, Lexington County School District One has carefully and methodically focused on taking deliberate and purposeful steps designed to minimize student and staff exposure and keep them safe and, as a result, keep our communities safe from COVID-19.

"When we look at all the factors and the fact that our medical community recommends masking, the district believes it best to continue masking. Also, please note that at this point, the State Department of Education still requires us to continue masks in school.

"The district will continue to keep masking for the rest of the school year as we follow the guidelines set by the SCDE and medical experts. The last day for Lexington District One students is Wednesday, June 9, exactly five weeks from today.

"We will continue to put the safety of our students, staff and their families first."

Lexington Two

"Our board policy does allow for flexibility to temporarily remove masks during certain activities, at the discretion of the superintendent/principal -- for example, during outdoor recess."

Lexington Three

"At the current time, there are no changes to our COVID-19 procedures in Lexington Three," the district said in a statement.

Richland One 

"Richland One continues to keep the safety of our students and staff as our priorities, and we will continue to consult with local health officials as we’ve done throughout the pandemic. We intend to keep our mask requirements and other safety protocols in place until the end of the school year."

Richland Two

To reduce the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that a face covering be worn in public settings when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. This policy is based on the guidelines established by the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE), which require face coverings to be worn on school buses and within public school facilities. The district will consider the circumstances in the community and consult local health officials for the implementation of this policy -- however, the revisiting of this policy has not been placed on the agenda for our next board meeting, which is May 11.

You can read Richland Two's complete face mask policy online.

Kershaw County

Amended their policy on April 4 to make face masks an option when persons are outdoors on school property.  Otherwise, Kershaw County follows CDC policy and does not have plans to discuss any changes at an upcoming school board meeting.