Horry County School Board does not implement mask requirement in schools

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 5:55 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2021 at 9:43 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The coronavirus took center stage at the Horry County Board of Education meeting on Monday as cases continue to surge throughout the county while students and teachers started the school year with traditional learning back in place.

It was the first school board meeting since students headed back to class last Tuesday.

At the start of the meeting, the board recognized the passing of Ray Winters, who represented District 3. Winters died last week after his battle with COVID-19. Each board member took a moment to talk about Winters and the impact he had on the community and his love of helping students in the school district. A black cloth covered where Winters used to sit with a white rose on top of it to honor him.

Chief Officer of Student Services Velna Allen gave an update on school operations where she provided details on health services and COVID-19 contact tracing in Horry County Schools.

The presentation showed that once a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, a team, which includes a member of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, a school nurse or trainer, a member of the school administration and district health services staff, work together to determine who are the close contacts. Once a list is created then the school administration or a school nurse will notify the affected student and staff member.

Allen explained that a close contact is someone who was within three feet for students or six feet for adults and has spent at least 15 minutes cumulatively with someone who was COVID positive over a 24-hour period.

Once a close contact person is notified then they will be asked to quarantine.

Here is the HCS Quarantine Protocol:

  • CDC and DHEC continue to recommend quarantine for 14 days after the last exposure. This is the most effective way to mitigate the spread of disease.
  • Although the CDC and DHEC identify options for reducing the duration of quarantine, HCS has taken the more cautious approach of requiring a 14-day quarantine period due to the recent increase in the reported number of local positive COVID-19 cases, as we as the increase in community spread within Horry County.
  • HCS will continue to monitor the number of locally reported positive COVID-19 cases within the county and will adjust quarantine duration, as the number of positive cases decrease to lower levels that remain stable.

Allen did explain that there are two exceptions to having to quarantine. They are the following:

  • Individuals who are fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms do not need to quarantine after a close contact.
  • People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past three months and recovered and do not have symptoms do not need to quarantine

Also during the meeting, board member Howard Barnard, who represents District 5, made a motion to add the issue of masks to the agenda. The issue was added to the board’s executive session so that they could receive legal advice on the issue. The mask issue was also added to the business section so school board members could take a vote on it. But after following the executive session, no action was taken on the mask issue, so therefore face coverings are not required in Horry County Schools.

Before the executive session, Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey said that he had received a lot of messages and questions about the temporary state law surrounding masks after the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities could enforce mask mandates.

Maxey explained that the proviso, or temporary law, that the state Supreme Court ruled on was a different one that targeted colleges and universities. He stated that Proviso 1.108 is for K-12 schools and spells out specifically that no mask mandates can be put in place and no state funding can be used to enforce the mandate.

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