Aiken school leaders pass resolution concerning masks, mandate

Aiken County

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) – COVID is becoming a major issue for the nation and here at home. Quarantines and how to lower COVID 19 is front and center in the Aiken County School District. School leaders are taking the issue of masks to Columbia.

A partially interrupted school board meeting shows some in the community want something to be done about facing coverings. Members of the board are trying to figure out how to make masks mandatory in Aiken County Schools without going against the law. “We’re basically opposed to breaking the law. I have a moral position on that as well,” School board Chairman Dr. John Bradley told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk.

According to data from the CDC, South Carolina leads the nation in COVID-19 cases by population. With a high number of quarantines and students and staff facing the virus in the county, face coverings could help manage it but a budget proviso is limiting access to options to state-funded districts. “I’m not sure that I want to necessarily take a stand on the merits of the proviso and the law,” Superintendent King Laurence said.

Instead, simply giving local boards the decision-making power concerning masks is what most leaders want. “I don’t think our hands are tied to do absolutely nothing. We can still advocate for what we think is right with the folks that have boxed us in and that doesn’t mean breaking the law,” school board member Cameron Nuessle said in a recent board meeting.

Advocating includes getting in touch with the General Assembly. The board recently passed a resolution saying to the group the matter of masks should be handled locally.

“The local school board should make these decisions dealing with the education and the health and welfare of our students,” Superintendent Lawrence added. “It’s in the process of being developed and written and hopefully we’ll be able to approve it next Tuesday night,” Dr. Bradley shared.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education announced a new grant program to provide funding to school districts being penalized for implementing COVID safety measures. Any action involving that legislation could also be taken up next Tuesday, as well.

“We’re studying it to make determinations about whether or not that would have any impact on what we do,” Dr. Bradley added.

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