CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) — Educators, school nurses and pediatricians in South Carolina are calling on state lawmakers to return to Columbia as soon as possible for a special session to repeal or amend state law that prevents schools from relinquishing mask mandates force.
“By not allowing districts to make masking and safety decisions, lawmakers are responsible for the disruptions this has caused to our day-to-day operations,” said Sherry East, president of the South Carolina Educators Association.
Data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s weekly school reports shows that these interruptions have affected tens of thousands of students and staff so far this school year, which began about a month ago.
DHEC reports that a total of 22,490 people – 20,936 students and 1,554 employees – had to isolate this school year because they had a confirmed or probable positive result, while 88,661 people – 86,770 students and 1,891 employees – have been quarantined for having been in close contact with someone which is infected.
These numbers are what schools themselves have reported, so doctors said they’re probably higher in reality.
“Our primary care pediatricians are overwhelmed and struggling to keep up with the number of sick children in South Carolina,” said Dr. Deborah Greenhouse, a Columbia pediatrician.
Greenhouse joined other members of the South Carolina branch of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the South Carolina Association of School Nurses, the South Carolina Parent Teacher Association, the South Carolina Educators Association and the Palmetto State Teachers Association on Tuesday to demand for legislators to make return decisions. -control over masks and virtual learning back to neighborhoods and schools.
“We want local school boards to make the decision that is best for their local community. The general assembly is not a superschool board,” said PSTA Director Kathy Maness.
Teachers in attendance on Tuesday said giving districts the power to decide whether masks are needed will protect not only the health of the students, but also their learning.
“What students are getting right now is a disrupted, inconsistent learning model that’s hard for teachers, it’s hard for students, and it’s hard for families,” said Patrick Kelly, PSTA’s director of government affairs.
“Those two or three students who are quarantined this week, next week are two or three other students who are being quarantined. There is no break. It becomes more of a revolving door. So there is no pause in the action for our teachers. They have to constantly work with students who are not in the classroom, which is incredibly taxing and frustrating for our teaching staff,” added Greg Little, Superintendent of Lexington County School District One.
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