• Released May 12, 2021, 5:00PM 

    Removal of Mask Mandate

    Horry County Schools (HCS) and other schools and districts throughout South Carolina have recently received conflicting directives related to COVID-19 safety protocols:

    • On May 12, the South Carolina Department of Education issued the following statement: 

    Rather than wage a debate over constitutionality that would pit elected officials,  students, and families against one another, Superintendent Spearman has, effective immediately, rescinded the state face covering policy with the exception of the school bus requirement that is now required by the federal government....Superintendent Spearman and the SCDE continue to urge schools and districts to follow DHEC’s public health guidance as they have throughout the pandemic.

    • On May 11, Governor McMaster issued an Executive Order, which has the effect of law, to provide a mask opt-out process for families, in conflict with pandemic recommendations from SCDHEC, the CDC, and local/state medical health systems.

    As noted in the Order, face covering requirements as they relate to students and staff on school buses have not changed as a result of President’s Executive Order No. 13998 (Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel) (Jan. 21, 2021); CDC Order Under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. § 264) and 42 C.F.R. §§ 70.2, 71.31(b), 71.32(b) (Requirement for Persons to Wear Masks While on Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs) (Jan. 29, 2021).

    • On April 28, the Governor signed into law the General Assembly’s SC COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act that provides protection from liability for entities that follow SCDHEC protocols and guidelines.

    After a thorough review of Executive Order 2021-23 by our General Counsel, we are prepared to move forward with our best good-faith effort to reconcile these conflicting directives.

    SCDHEC Face Mask Opt-Out Form

    SCDHEC Face Mask Opt-Out Form (Spanish)

    In order for the opt-out procedure to take effect as soon as possible, schools will accept signed/completed paper copies of the SCDHEC opt-out forms starting tomorrow, Thursday, May 13, 2021, from parents (or students over the age of 18). 

     
    Parents Concerned About Removal of Mask Mandate

    Students whose families do not want their children to attend school due to these changes will not be moved into the K-12 HCS Virtual Program at this point.  At this point in the semester, we do not have enough time for the transition of either grades or instructors.  

    Because we can no longer maintain recommended protocols, we will allow parents to opt for their students to work independently from home for the remainder of this year; however, the student’s work will be assigned and submitted through Google Classroom or SeeSaw. Parents must submit a request to the principal in writing (email or hard copy) by Monday, May 17, 2021. All parents who choose this option are committing their student to work independently from home for the remainder of the school year.

    Schools will record attendance for those students as administratively excused absences as long as work is completed.  Regular final exams for these students will be delivered via Google Classroom. State-required assessments cannot be taken remotely, so all state-required assessments must be administered in school settings with six feet of social distancing. Students whose parents do not feel that it is safe for them to report to their brick-and-mortar school to complete a state-required assessment will not be penalized.


    Consequences to Student Seating

    The seating of students within a classroom less than six feet apart is allowed by DHEC when students wear a mask and are separated by plexiglass dividers. However, the removal of the mask mandate negates this SCDHEC option. Therefore, a student who is not wearing a mask and who is within six feet of a student who tests positive for COVID-19 will be subject to a 10-day quarantine per SCDHEC requirements.

    HCS Employees

    As a result of the below May 12th statement issued by SCDE, HCS employees, with the exception of bus drivers while performing their driving duties, will not be required to wear face coverings effective immediately:

    Rather than wage a debate over constitutionality that would pit elected officials,    students, and families against one another, Superintendent Spearman has, effective immediately, rescinded the state face covering policy with the exception of the school bus requirement that is now required by the federal government.

    As we receive more or new information regarding employees, we will share with employees as soon as possible.


    HCS Health Recommendations

    Even though these changes in COVID-19 mitigation efforts have been directed by state authorities, HCS encourages students and employees to continue with SCDHEC guidance to include maintaining social distancing, hand sanitizing, and the wearing of face coverings. 

    DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have provided guidance stating that the wearing of face coverings slows the spread of COVID-19. Failure to wear a face covering may subject a student or employee to an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading COVID-19 to others.

     

    Released May 11, 2021

    Earlier tonight, all South Carolina school superintendents received the following statement from the South Carolina Department of Education in response to Governor McMaster’s announcement that parents will be allowed to choose whether their children wear masks in a public school setting.

    “This evening Governor McMaster issued Executive Order 2021-23, attached, that has language pertaining to the use of face coverings in South Carolina public schools. Due to the lateness of the Order, the legal ambiguities, and the absence of a DHEC opt out form, the state face covering guidelines will remain in effect until such time as the agency has the opportunity to confer with legal counsel and provide further guidance.

     As noted in the Order, face covering requirements as they relate to students and staff on school buses have not changed as a result of President’s Executive Order No. 13998 (Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel) (Jan. 21, 2021); CDC Order Under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. § 264) and 42 C.F.R. §§ 70.2, 71.31(b), 71.32(b) (Requirement for Persons to Wear Masks While on Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs) (Jan. 29, 2021).”

     Governor McMasters’ spokesperson, Brian Symmes, said tonight that existing rules requiring students to wear masks may remain in place until the form for parents is developed. "The governor expects it to be done very quickly," Symmes said. "Whether there's a month left in the school year or it's the beginning of the school year, he doesn't care," Symmes said. "He fundamentally believes that that's a decision that should be left up to the parents." 

     Accordingly, Horry County Schools mask requirement for students will remain in place for all school buildings and buses until the parent opt-out form is developed by the state.

    PDF Attachment

     

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