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South Carolina school districts discuss COVID-19 protocols for next year, some parents want none

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 8:18 PM EDT
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CLOVER, S.C. (WBTV) -School is just about out for the summer, if it is not already, and that means districts are already thinking about next year.

One of the biggest concerns is should schools carry over COVID-19 protocols from this school year into the new one?

Well, all seven of the WBTV South Carolina school districts are waiting on guidance from the state health leaders and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The Department of Health and Environmental Control set the tone for last year’s guidance.

Schools required masks, social distancing and strict cleaning guidelines. It also said that schools could not have visitors and students should wear masks on the bus.

This upcoming year, we could see some of those rules sticking around since all students cannot get a vaccine.

Currently, Pfizer is the only one available for people 12 and older. However, even if vaccines become available, they are not required.

COVID-19 variants are the biggest reasons why schools are already talking about next year’s COVID plans. South Carolina has already seen cases of the UK and South African variants.

”It got to the point where she was crying that she didn’t want to go to school,” says Lisa Smith, a mom of an elementary schooler.

Smith’s daughter did not want to go to school because of COVID-19 safety protocols.

She says her daughter’s hands were raw from alcohol wipes, she had headaches from masks, and she could not play with her friends.

All Smith wants is for her child to have a normal school year.

”It’s not fair that this entire time we’re putting the kids that are the least affected, they’re getting hit the worst,” says Smith.

Those protocols might be here to stay though. Clover School District, where Smith’s daughter goes to school, is already working on a COVID safety plan for next year.

”It makes it hard for teachers to teach and students to learn because they’re worried about contact tracing and worried about disinfecting and worried about somebody’s not wearing a mask,” says Smith.

”There’s still a changing landscape and things we do not know,” says District Spokesperson Bryon Dillon.

He says COVID presented an unprecedented challenge to the 2020 to 2021 school year.

Despite loosened restrictions around the school including fully vaccinated people not having to wear masks, it is still safety first and always will be.

”We all certainly hope that we’re moving toward the end. There’s nothing we want more than to be back to normal with our students. But there are some things we are going to have to follow,” says Dillon.

Dillon says that plan includes input from parents, teachers and staff, but the main decision-maker for next year’s COVID guidelines—the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

” There are certain requirements a district has to meet that’s set by DHEC or other governing bodies,” Dillon says.

If the district does not meet them, they will not open. It is something Smith understands, but she is fighting to make sure her daughter and other students, teachers and administrators have as normal of a school year as possible.

She says if they have protocols, all of them should be a choice for everyone.

”We were one of the first to go back face-to-face in South Carolina. So if we can do that why can’t we be one of the first to go back to normal?’ says Smith.

The school district says it will present a copy of its plan to the school board on June 28th. It would like to have the official plan out by July 1st.

WBTV reached out to DHEC to see when the guidelines could come down.

The agency sent this statement:

“DHEC recently made several updates to current guidance for schools and childcare for the remainder of the 2021 academic year.

“We anticipate CDC will publish updated school operations guidance for the 2022 academic year within the next few weeks.

“DHEC will review CDC’s updated school operations guidance once it is released in order to develop guidance for South Carolina schools. We plan to provide this as quickly as possible to allow districts and schools the time they need to plan for the upcoming year.”

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