TRI-COUNTY, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) – Only a few school districts in the state of South Carolina have mask requirements for students, faculty and staff within district facilities. Two of those districts are right here in the Tri-County. When it comes to mask requirements, the debate continues to be about state funds.
School district leaders across the Tri-County are sharing COVID numbers on this Monday — one month since school started, and most school district leaders say cases are down reflecting what is also happening throughout Tri-County communities. Two Tri-County districts, York and Chester, are about a month into enacting masking requirements for students, faculty and staff. CN2 News caught up with districts who are not enforcing masking but still encouraging them.
Rock Hill School Board Chair, Helena Miller, says, “So at this point there are a couple of things that prevent us from legally doing so. Mainly, the proviso that is tied to our funding.”
Clover School District’s Bryan Dillon shares, “We don’t pick and choose which laws that we follow so as long as the General Assembly has that proviso in line, the Clover School District has elected to follow all terms set forth by the state.”
Clover Schools and the Rock Hill School District both say they will continue following Governor Henry McMaster’s proviso and guidance coming from the State of South Carolina. Like those two districts, Fort Mill Schools leaders also say they don’t see a masks mandate or requirement in the future. The district is expanding the number of air filtrations units being installed, now adding them to high schools and opening up a new COVID clinic this week to reach more people.
Joe Burke with Fort Mill Schools, says, “We have a vaccine clinic coming up on September 30, will be offering the Pfizer, the Moderna, and the Johnson & Johnson back from there so you’ll have the opportunity to come in and get which one of those you choose.”
Two school districts now requiring masks on district property that first district is York School District, and the second is Chester County School District. Both are saying that they’ve seen a significant drop in the number of students outside the classroom since that requirement was put in place.
Tim Cooper with York School District, says, “Our board of trustees met the end of August and looked at some current data regarding COVID positive cases, as well as quarantine and isolation that we had going on in the district at that time. And our numbers are really high, we were nearly 20% of our students were not in school.”
Chris Christoff with Chester County Schools, says, “So the board’s goal is to explore and utilize every and any avenue possible in order to protect safety of our students and staff.”
York Schools and Chester County Schools began masks requirements at the end of August. Both district leaders say so far they are noticing a significant decline in COVID cases, isolations and quarantines.
“Our numbers in our district have gone down significantly. our student percentage of in school is much, much higher than it was at that peak right there at the beginning of September,” says Cooper.
“Since that day we’ve seen a decline, a downward trend in the number of cases — just this last week we’ve had approximately 50,” says Christoff.
Both districts are only requiring masks on district grounds and not turning students away for not wearing one. York says it has not gotten direct feedback from the state on funding and Chester says they are not using state or federal funds to implement the policy. Overall, they both say most students are choosing to mask up.
In the video above, CN2’s Rachel Richardson is speaking with Tri-County school district leaders about the decision to mask or not.