The long-awaited mask mandate in Dorchester District Two School District won’t take place as a result of the decreasing number of new cases in the area, DD2 officials decided on Monday.
According to the school district members, on the meeting that took place Monday night they decided not to enforce mask mandate in schools for multiple reasons including the decreasing number of cases in the area, potential lawsuits and the pressure that every teacher is about to face enforcing the mask mandates.
“We all want masks but as we continued looking through this, we realized that there are too many components that are not going to work for us to mandate it,” said board member Tanya Robinson. “We will just have to wait and see what happens for now.”
Majority of parents supported the mask mandate, according to the last week’s survey that was sent to parents. Only 64% of the parents answered the survey: 72% fully supported mask mandate in schools, while the rest choose this to be optional.
However, the survey was not enough for the school district members to decide and implement the mandate in the schools taking into conidiation the other factors too.
On the staff side, 75 percent supported the idea of a mask mandate while 25 percent did not. Only 68 percent of staff members responded.
Last week, the board asked the superintendent and his team to take a deep dive into the pros and cons of a mask mandate. Superintendent Joseph Pye presented their findings without giving a specific recommendation.
Pye clearly noted the pros of potential mask mandate. As multiple cases have proven, mask mandate in schools lowers the spread of the virus among students and schools staff resulting with fewer quarantined.
However, the potential mask mandate in South Carolina has cons for both school workers and school districts officials. According to Pye, there will be a lot of parents that are about to protest the decision, something that is already seen in districts where mask mandate is implemented, potential lawsuits and additional pressure on teacher when implementing the mandate amid high teachers shortage.
The major sticking point is the state government’s budget proviso prohibiting the district from using state funds to enforce a mask policy. District leaders say that would also mean they would have to hire an outside lawyer to defend them in any court cases.
However, experts believe that the major reason for schools quitting the idea of mask mandates are the Covid-19 number which are slowly but surely decreasing around the state in the last 10 days. This is especially notable in schools among students and school staff.
“We are not seeing an exponential rise,” said board member Justin Farnsworth. “I told you guys a couple of weeks ago, I genuinely believed by the end of this week we would have 2,000 plus kids in quarantine and we don’t.”
The idea of mask mandate has been present since the start of the school year, but none of the board meetings resulted with enforcing mask mandate so far, and that won’t happen in near future too.
While the board didn’t decide on masks, they did decide to encourage audience members to display better decorum during the meeting. Board Chair Gail Hughes says the meetings have gotten out of hand lately with public outbursts that disrupt business.
“We will not tolerate any kind of outburst, whether it be shouting to the speakers when speakers are talking or standing up and clapping or yelling out or vulgar language,” Hughes said. “All of those things that we have had in the past couple of months and we are not going to tolerate any of that.”
Despite the fact that no mandate was enforced in schools withing the Dorchester District Two School District, students and school staff are strongly encouraged to wear mask while in schools.