Parents press school board to lift pandemic restrictions
Unless an order comes from someone at the state level, the Georgetown County School District will continue to require masks to be worn inside facilities.
Superintendent Keith Price said throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the district has followed guidelines from state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s not a decision we make in isolation. It’s not a political decision,” Price said. “It’s looking at the safety and health of all people involved. That has served us well. It hasn’t always been popular, obviously.”
The district also has its own medical advisory team, which recently recommended the district “stay the course” by keeping the mask requirement in place and not removing plexiglass from schools. The team is made up of eight doctors from across the county who advise Price and his staff.
After Gov. Henry McMaster said it was “ridiculous” for school districts to tell parents whether their children should wear masks inside classrooms, Spearman announced that the mask requirement would stay in place for the rest of the school year.
“We would advise districts to continue to follow these guidelines and if the governor feels that they are no longer needed, he has the power to issue an executive order directing districts to abandon them,” Spearman said.
Price said if the governor issues an executive order or DHEC’s guidelines change, the district could revisit the mask requirement before the end of the school year.
The school board heard impassioned pleas to rescind the mask requirement from seven parents this week.
Nicole Gioino of Litchfield Plantation said masks and other COVID-19 restrictions are causing “detrimental harm” to children.
“Please stop allowing our children to suffer behind bacteria- and waste-soaked, oxygen-deprived, emotional-sealing facial coverings within a plexiglass cell for the majority of their waking hours while attempting to learn,” Gioino said. “Please stop instilling fear and allowing a lack of human connection in an entire generation of our children.”
Patty Olsen of Murrells Inlet said her three sons have been bullied for occasionally pulling their masks down to take a breath.
“My boys literally come home crying to me every day about having to wear their masks,” Olsen said. “They are severely asthmatic and have significant breathing problems.”
Olsen called it “hypocrisy” that she can go to a bar, restaurant or store without a mask but kids have to wear them all day at school.
“We are putting the burden on the backs of our children and for what? For a virus that virtually doesn’t affect them,” she said. “The biggest issue with this pandemic is we are letting the cure be worse than the actual disease.”
Austin Bond, a youth pastor at Low Country Community Church in Murrells Inlet, said his church does not require masks. He suggested a good first step for the district would be to allow kids to take off their masks during recess.
“It’s time to stop living in fear,” Bond said. “It’s time to start living and breathing freely.”
The medical advisory team also recommended the district consider allowing kids to take off their masks during recess.