Do you have to wear masks in schools? Rock Hill allows teachers to opt-out

Students and teachers will now be able to opt out of wearing masks. Students are still required...
Students and teachers will now be able to opt out of wearing masks. Students are still required to wear masks on the school bus.(Andy Burris | Rock Hill Herald | Andy Burris | Rock Hill Herald)
Published: May. 14, 2021 at 12:22 PM EDT
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (ROCK HILL HERALD) - Effective Friday, teachers in Rock Hill schools will be able to opt-out of wearing face masks.

On Tuesday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced Executive Order 2021-23, which “empowers parents to decide whether their children should wear masks in public schools.” The order directed the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to develop and distribute a form that parents can sign to “opt their child out of mask requirements imposed by any public school official or school district.”

The order does not include a policy for teachers. The Rock Hill Schools Board of Trustees met Thursday night in an emergency meeting to decide if they would extend this privilege to teachers.

The board voted 7-0 to allow teachers to complete opt-out forms.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we’ve had to deal with this in such an emergency way, but we do want to consider our staff, our employees and give them at the least the same opportunities that are being given to our students at this time,” School Board Vice-Chair Robin Owens said.

“We’re now in a position where our children have the option, or rather their parents do. And I personally think that if we have students that are given this option, we should extend that courtesy to our staff as well,” School Board Chair Helena Miller said.

Both expressed their regret that the decision had to be made so quickly and asked the community for patience.

The district said in a statement Tuesday that schools are still waiting to receive forms from DHEC. The form will be shared with parents and faculty as soon as it is available.

Owens said the board will continue to discuss future mask policies. “We have to deal with just the part that we are able to tonight,” she said.

Rock Hill Schools policy, enacted at the beginning of the school year during the pandemic, currently says staff members are required to wear masks on district property and students are required to wear masks while “on district property, on district transportation, or attending a school related activity.”

After Thursday’s meeting, along with the executive order of the governor, the policy has been amended to allow both teachers and students to opt out.

However, the policy continues to require bus drivers and students on buses to wear masks. The board cited a federal order by the Center of Disease Control that requires masks or face coverings on “conveyences” (buses, planes, trains and any other form of transportation).

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