Midlands superintendents react to new court ruling on mask mandates in schools

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Despite a South Carolina supreme court ruling stating that state law banning mask mandates is constitutional, school districts in the state can now require masks in schools.

That’s according to a federal court ruling that blocks the state’s ban on school mask mandates.

“I believe that parents should have the final word in whether their children should be required to wear masks in school. We will take it to the Supreme Court if necessary,” said Gov. Henry McMaster on Wednesday.

Many superintendents are happy to now have the power to enforce a mask mandate.

“We want to have every tool at our disposal so we can make the decision locally on how to best forward as to how it pertains to our students and school district, “said Alvin Pressley, superintendent of Newberry County School District.

Newberry School District saw a peak number of students quarantining earlier in the year with about 700 kids out of school. Yet with less than half of them still out of the classroom, they are proceeding without a mask mandate for the time being.

“At this point, the numbers are low,” Pressley said. “This is going to have to be a decision where we have to bring the board members together. We will make a decision based on the numbers.”

Another school district in the Midlands is going without a mask mandate as well thanks to compliance among students and staff.

“If I had to estimate, 94 percent of students and staff are wearing mask consistently,” said Dr. J.R. Green, superintendent of Fairfield County School District.

With a variety of mitigation measures in place to stop the spread of COVID, kids in the district are also still enjoying after school activities.

 “I am a firm believe that students need to have the opportunity to participate in football, tennis, band, dance and all the other extracurricular activities that we provide,” Dr. Green said.

After their first game of the season got postponed, Superintendent Green applauds the efforts of the football team. Most of the players took it upon themselves to get vaccinated.

“So they understood the connection between them being vaccinated and the potential disruption to the season,” Green said.

The Fairfield superintendent also encourages parents of students to get vaccinated and the district is planning a vaccination clinic coming up.

“We’re very excited to be able to assist our community in terms of accessing the vaccine because I think that will go a long way to getting us back to normal,” Green said.

Another step on the road to getting back to normal is the approval of the COVID vaccine in younger age groups which is expected in the near future.

“When it’s available for students 5 through 12, we are going to encourage our parents to do the same,” said Dr. Craig Witherspoon, Richland One School District superintendent.

In addition to plexiglass, sanitation, lunch in the classroom and classes outside, Richland One has had a mask mandate in place since the start of the school year.

“Those strategies that we can put in place to help mitigate the spread helps us. It keeps our quarantine numbers down and keeps students in school,” Dr. Witherspoon said. “We’re pleased with those outcomes.”

All of the superintendents thank the efforts of the students, parents, nurses and teachers for being patient while the districts have had to adapt through the pandemic.

Categories: Fairfield, Local News, Newberry, Richland