CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Lowcountry school leaders and parents are pushing back after Governor Henry McMaster issued an executive order to allow parents to sign a waiver and opt their children out of wearing masks in school.
The Governor’s announcement on Tuesday came as a shock to many state education officials including Superintendent Molly Spearman.
“I did not speak with the Governor. He did not ask me my opinion on this, however, I did speak with his staff and I asked them not to do this. We needed to end this school year with the mandate in place how it was,” says Spearman.
This executive order directed the Department of Education and the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to create the waiver. The form must be signed by a parent or guardian if the student is under 18 to be valid.
DHEC officials say their stance on the mask recommendation has not with this decision from McMaster. Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC Director, says “We believe that wearing masks reduces the risk of covid infection — especially indoors.”
The Charleston County School District held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to decide how to move forward. Chairman Dr. Eric Mack says regardless of the board’s opinions, they will be following the Governor’s order.
“As a board of trustees, we must comply with the executive order to allow for face mask waivers. But, we use this opportunity to earnestly appeal to allow the successful protocols put in place for this most unusual year for this school year,” says Mack.
While this is the decision a number of CCSD parents have been protesting for; many of the parents who do want their children to wear masks in school feel that their hands are tied.
“This is just a big ol’ mess,” says Christina Chase, mother of 3 CCSD students.
Chase says a majority of the parents she has spoken with trust the advice from medical experts and are perfectly fine with the mask mandate in place.
However, she says the idea of masked children being in the same class as unmasked children is concerning.
“For the masked families — we don’t sign anything.. We essentially have no choice in the matter but to send our kid to school and kind of brave it and hope for the best,” says Chase.
Governor McMaster says he stands by his decision. For more details on the opt-out form, click here.