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Charleston Co. parents caught off guard by mask mandate set for January

Charleston County, South Carolina (WCSC) – Not a single public comment was given about the face-covering policy before the Charleston County School Board’s decision to re-establish its mask mandate.

The lack of input raises questions about the transparency provided by the school board’s agendas announced before each meeting.

“I didn’t know, like many of my fellow parents with special needs,” said Jessica Ziegler’s mother. “We’ve been left in the dark over and over over the mask issue. We had no idea this was going to be discussed, and again, it would happen in closed session. So even when we’re in the loop, we’re not in the loop.”

The Board received legal advice in an executive session before taking action before the public at its December 13th meeting. The mask policy is encoded with the letters ‘ADD’ and appears on the agenda as ‘Receipt of Legal Advice on Policy ADD’.

However, this language does not come with any explanation of what the policy is or where to find it. In previous meetings – most recently on November 8 – mask decisions were defined as “receive legal advice on face mask requirements”, with a link to the policy ADD.

“If it had been more clear, I know the parents would have shown up to make their comments,” Ziegler said. “It’s disingenuous to do this right before the break, right before Christmas when parents are really busy. I can’t say we could have attended 100 but there could have been more community involvement on the issue.”

Read the add (face coverings) policy.

The policy requires students and staff to wear face coverings whenever a recent disease activity report from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control rated Charleston County as high or medium. The most recent report ranks the county as Medium. Whether or not masks will be required when students return in January will be determined by the most recent report received before the end of the year.

While parents like Ziegler oppose the mandates of masks, others believe that masks should never have disappeared. Reverend E.J. Milligan has a grandson in the district and is a member of District One Constituent Assembly. It supports the state of the mask.

“I think it’s a good idea considering there is an increase in coronavirus cases and a new variant. I think it’s a good idea to protect our students, our teachers and our community,” Milligan said. Even if the carrier isn’t sick, someone else will get sick, so we’re affecting society one way or another.”

The region’s policy will remain in effect until January 14, but the topic is expected to be put on the agenda at a special meeting on January 10.

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