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Chester County Schools defy S.C. mask mandate ban, requires masks indoors

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 10:48 PM EDT
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CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - The Chester County School Board voted on Monday to require masks in schools for students and staff.

The mask mandate starts on August 30.

South Carolina state law keeps public school districts from using state money for mask mandates in schools.

However, Chester County joins districts such as Charleston and Richland One to defy the mask mandate ban.

The district says it is not using state funds to enforce the mask mandate.

Some parents are for it. Some are against it. Chester County parents take polar opposite sides when it comes to this issue.

”It’s taking away our right,” says parent William Orr, who is against the mask mandate.

That statement is the core reason Orr says Chester County Schools should not mandate masks. Since they have, he says he is moving his first-grade son from public to private school.

”Ain’t no mountain...no dollar that I wouldn’t spend to look out for my kids’ health,” says Orr.

So far, Chester County Schools has almost 70 positive cases between students and staff, since starting back last week. 200 students are on quarantine as of this morning.

”Any covid case is bad but we’ve been wearing masks since 2020 and it’s still ramping up,” says Orr.

Ramping up is the reason parents who are for masks are giving for why they stand with the district’s decision. People for the masks gave their own reasons.

They want to end the pandemic and feel masks can help that. They also do not want their child getting sick or spreading it to someone who is high-risk. They believe masks work as well.

District spokesperson Chris Christoff says the district is not taking sides. Instead, the focus in on safety.

”We’re trying to keep everybody safe and prevent an outbreak in one of our schools. We don’t want to shut our schools down,” says Christoff.

Christoff says they will use local money rather than state or federal money to pay for enforcement if anything comes up. As far as enforcement, Christoff says that has no been completely fleshed out yet.

”Nothing set in stone specifically,” says Chrsitoff. “Administration is saying they will take it on a case-by-case basis.”

The district will keep the mandate for 60 days starting Aug. 30. Then they will look at case numbers and quarantines to see if they have to continue the requirement.

South Carolina State Superintendent Molly Spearman says she agrees with them although she does not advocate breaking the law.

At a press conference, Spearman urged lawmakers to repeal the mask ban so school boards would have the choice.

State leaders and pediatricians wanted to drive the message home that masks are necessary as well as vaccines if your student is eligible.

But Spearman, Dr. Linda Bell, the state epidemiologist, and the pediatricians say without masks, the outlook could look grim.

Spearman says districts are divided between either most students wearing masks or only a few choosing to mask up.

“We’re better than this. We’re smarter than this. Parents, please listen to your doctors,” says Spearman.

Spearman left nothing to wonder about on her position on masks in schools.

“I disagree with the governor on this. We have got to have a solution to this,” she says.

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