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'I’m scared for my life this school year': Lexington-Richland 5 students, parents challenge optional masks

The debate on mask mandates in schools continued at the Richland-Lexington District five meeting on Monday.

CHAPIN, S.C. — As many schools throughout the Midlands are preparing to reopen for the fall, Lexington-Richland School District Five has begun mapping out what this unusual year will look like.

"You removed the mask mandate way too soon. I know I’m bringing this to your attention way too late, but I’m scared for my life this school year,” said one Chapin Middle School student.

RELATED: Dozens of students test positive for COVID-19 at Kershaw County Schools

Another Chapin student said she felt the district should be doing more to make students feel safe. “The most important thing is protecting what we love. And I believe that most of us love the children. So, why are we not doing our best to protect them when there are measures we can take that can combat the thing we must protect each other from?”

One district parent spoke on behalf of his daughter, saying she feels the board made the right call. “What do you want me to tell the board? What do you want your school year to look like this year? She goes, ‘Daddy, I just want it to be normal. I just want it to be back to normal,’” he said.

RELATED: Gov. McMaster says mask mandates in schools illegal, claims masks prohibit students from learning

RELATED: Midlands hospitals continue to see spikes in COVID-19 cases

The board also voiced concerns about teachers of the district, voting unanimously to give eligible teachers an additional $100 for school supplies for students.

“Our community has faced a lot over the last 18 months," said interim superintendent Akil Ross. "The collective trauma, the collective stress ... it does hit our teachers.” 

Even though the board says it predicts positive COVID cases ahead of the school year are to be expected, it remains hopeful.

“What can we control? We can control what force moves our heart. As a community, to be a community, we must have something in common,” said Ross.

The district will host a Virtual Community Forum on August 12 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Interim Superintendent Dr. Akil E. Ross, Sr. will discuss back-to-school concerns, as well as the results from the Reentry and ESSER III Survey. 

Lexington-Richland Five students begin class on August 18.