HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - As the deadline to register for the Horry County Schools’ virtual program nears, Gov. Henry McMaster is starting a push to make masks optional for students inside South Carolina classrooms.
“I think it is a height of ridiculosity for a school district to make that decision for the parents, particularly since we know that even when the virus was rampant that the schools, the classrooms were the safest places of all,” McMaster stated.
Horry County Schools spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said the governor’s comments won’t impact their policies.
“It’s based on our health experts,” Bourcier said.
Bourcier added they’re waiting for guidance from the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the CDC on when to make the decision to stop requiring masks. She said, she can’t say for sure when that will be, but there’s a possibility come August, schools might look different.
“We don’t know exactly what next school year will look like, we’re starting to see guidelines relax a little bit,” Bourcier said.
McMaster said with so many teachers vaccinated, kids should be able to remove masks if parents want them to. But teacher and SC for Ed Board Member Lisa Ellis said classrooms still aren’t foolproof.
“The plexiglass, unless it’s going from floor to ceiling, which it’s not, is still an open area where the virus can spread,” Ellis said.
Parents have until 11:59 p.m. Friday to decide if they want to enroll their children in the virtual program. Bourcier said they’re already seeing massive drops in enrollment, from 13,000 students last fall, to just over 1,100 as of Thursday.
Parent Hannah Hamill said she’s had it with the virtual program. She said she’s opting to switch back to in-person learning, no matter what the classrooms look like.
“We’ll enforce the masks on our end, and hope and pray for the best, because right now the virtual program is taking our lives, another level, to where we can’t even enjoy life, my kids can’t enjoy life in the virtual program,” Hamill said.
The State Department of Education provided this statement following McMaster’s comments.
“By following the mitigation strategies recommended by public health experts, South Carolina is one of only a handful of states in which every school is fully open to in-person learning. 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.”