COVID spike spurs plea from chief of Aiken County schools
AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Aiken County Public Schools joined the list of local school districts with more than 1,000 students in quarantine due to possible coronavirus exposure.
Across the Savannah River in Georgia, the Columbia County School System reported similar figures on Tuesday, leading to a mask mandate starting Thursday.
That’s not an option in Aiken County because the South Carolina Legislature added a proviso to the state budget that bars school districts from requiring masks.
And Gov. Henry McMaster remains unswayed in his position against mask mandates despite pushback from the federal government, some parent and teacher groups, and a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Nevertheless, Aiken County Superintendent King Laurence at Tuesday night’s school board meeting pleaded with students, parents and school employees to “do what you can” to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
He strongly encouraged wearing masks, getting vaccinated and avoiding large gatherings.
Last week, 147 Aiken County students and 22 faculty members tested positive for coronavirus, leading to the quarantine of 1,112 students and 51 employees.
Laurence said in his report to the school board that this school year has been more challenging than last year because there were more options last year to respond to outbreaks.
The district can no longer go to a mixed at-home/in-school learning option across the board.
The district could go fully virtual but only after consulting with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and after the significant outbreak has occurred.
“The horse is out of the barn at that point,” Laurence said.
LATEST COVID STATISTICS FOR AIKEN COUNTY SCHOOLS, RELEASED WEDNESDAY:
- The halls of Horse Creek Academy are empty this week after 72 students tested positive for COVID. Two-thirds of the school’s students are under quarantine and all of them are learning virtually for the rest of this week, potentially longer. But because they’re a public charter school, and use state funds, they’re not allowed to mandate masks.
- in Georgia, the Columbia County superintendent announced students will be required to wear masks in the classroom starting this Thursday. Until now, there was only a mask requirement on buses in Columbia County. But now it will be across the board. Dr. Steven Flynt says almost 300 additional students have tested positive so far this week and more than 1,000 students are in quarantine. He says the district is making this decision because they want to keep Columbia County students in school five days a week.
- Closed by the surge in COVID cases that’s being driven by the delta variant, schools in Taliaferro and Burke counties are announcing their plans to reopen. Taliaferro County students will return Aug. 30 but will follow an “A/B” mixed in-person and at-home schedule that will not have them all on campus at the same time. Students will follow that schedule through Sept. 17. After a break, students will return under a regular schedule on Oct. 11. Burke County students will return to class as planned on Aug. 30 with mandatory masks inside facilities and on buses.
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