CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The Charleston County School District (CCSD) on Monday voted to implement a mask requirement for all students and staff. The requirement extends to anyone that comes on campus while school is in session.
The vote passed 8-1 at a special board meeting.
The requirement will last until at least October 15. It is in opposition to a proviso by state lawmakers banning public schools receiving state funds from requiring masks.
Board members said that they made the decision based on medical advice amid the Delta variant surge, which they anticipate will peak in September.
They felt a mask requirement was the best way to keep kids safe at this point, noting they would rather implement the requirement than have to go virtual, or worse, have students or staff hospitalized due to COVID-19.
“As a Board of Trustee, I have a responsibility to make sure that we are keeping the well being of all the individuals who enter into our school buildings safe,” says Reverend Dr. Eric Mack who serves as Chairman of the School Board.
The decision coming with push back and controversy as parents gathered outside district headquarters before the meeting to protest mandated mask wearing for students. Dr. Mack says last school year turning out a low number of COVID-19 cases serves as proof masks can work.
“We’ve also learned that through this last school year that we had a low number of individuals or kids contracting COVID-19,” says Dr. Mack.
Another obstacle for the district and mandate could be a legal battle. Dr. Mack says the numbers of new cases were on the decline when the proviso was approved. Mack says that’s no longer the case meaning the district had to take action.
“I hope that we don’t get to the point of battling it out in court or with any legal issues,” says Dr. Mack. “That everyone here will see that the issue is all about safety and the protection of our kids.”
The district’s current face covering policy was suspended by the board clearing way for the new mandate to take it’s place. Dr. Mack says it’s the district’s best way to keep students in classrooms.
“We’re at a point now where we need to come together and to be able to get through this pandemic that we’re dealing with in our schools,” says Dr. Mack. “We don’t want to become a super spreader.”
Following the vote, a press conference on the topic of mask wearing planned for Tuesday was cancelled.
Editor’s note: This story is breaking and will be updated.