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Masks not required on South Carolina school buses despite federal mandate

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 7:44 PM EDT
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YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - Students can ditch their masks on the school bus.

Masks will not be required on South Carolina school buses in the upcoming school year.

With the school year just a month away for our Palmetto state schools, this was an announcement some parents have been waiting for.

It all started with state legislators putting a mask enforcement provision in the state budget. It states no school district can use any money from the budget to enforce mask mandates in “any educational facility.”

South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) leaders interpret that to mean districts cannot require students, teachers or staff to wear face masks while at school.

What becomes tricky is school buses are owned by the state -not the school districts. That is why an SCDE spokesperson says they got rid of the mask mandate on buses as well.

Despite South Carolina schools dropping the bus mask mandate, masks are still required by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the federal mask mandate, so SCDE still recommends everyone uses them. One parent says she is ready to get rid of them for good.

“Giving parents autonomy in what they are comfortable with and letting them choose whether they want or don’t want their child to wear a mask is I think a step in the right direction,” says Vic Schmidt.

Other COVID protocols like cleaning and ventilation were dropped by the department of education too, but parents are extremely focused on the masks.

As a lifeguard, Vic Schmidt has seen what it is like for kids to be carefree and maskless.

”It’s a positive thing to be outside and active again and not being prohibited by masks,” says Schmidt.

It is the reason why she doesn’t want to see kids wearing them in schools or on the buses anymore.

”Seeing how COVID affected this past school year I think it’s awesome getting them back into school regular schedule seeing their friends again,” says Schmidt.

Schmidt’s hopes are aligning with the SCDC’s plans.

SCDE is using a no masks condition in the budget to stop requiring them saying “as the owner and operator of the state’s 5600 school bus fleet, the S.C. Department of Education will not enforce the CDC’s face covering order on South Carolina school buses.”

”It’s totally ok if South Carolina wants to go do their own thing and not go with the federal mandates,” says Schmidt.

She is right. With the federal mandate still active…you may think SC has to follow it or lose funding, but an SCDE spokesperson says “the CDC has told pupil transportation operators that enforcement is at our discretion.”

The CDC confirmed this statement to me. So, a new school year means new COVID-19 rules. Rules Schmidt hopes will be less restrictive.

”I think it’s a good thing to kind of get back to normal,” she says.

Other parents, who did not want to go on camera, are not a fan of the SCDE getting rid of the bus mandates. They say it is going to be hectic with the new Delta variant and not every student will be vaccinated. They are carrying those concerns into the new year.

The South Carolina Education Department still encourages masks on buses and within schools. Nothing in the state law prevents any school district from enacting their own masks rules on buses.

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