Taking a closer look at new COVID guidelines for S.C. schools

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 11:47 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - South Carolina school leaders say their hands are tied when it comes to COVID because state law does not allow schools to require masks, and it limits virtual learning, as well.

In a board meeting Tuesday night, school leaders in Aiken County said they were waiting for new guidance from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

That advice came Wednesday.

The new DHEC guidelines are 33 pages long. They cover everything from exposure and quarantining to getting tested and going virtual. And the option to go virtual has been a struggle for South Carolina schools because of the statewide mandate requiring schools to be open five days a week and fully functioning.

But now these guidelines offer some relief.


There are a few scenarios for close contact:

Scenario one: The positive student is wearing a mask. When students are 3 feet apart and masked, no one has to isolate. But if that same person wearing a mask came closer than 3 feet, they do have to quarantine. Any other unmasked student within 6 feet also has to quarantine.


Scenario two: The positive student is not masked, so anyone within 6 feet, mask or not, has to quarantine because the positive student did not have a mask on.


Scenario three: The teacher is positive and any student within 6 feet of the teacher must quarantine.


So, how long should you be quarantining?

It all depends on your symptoms. And you should wait five days to get tested.

If you have no symptoms and test negative after seven days, you can go back to school wearing a mask while still monitoring symptoms.

7 days
7 days(WRDW)

If you have no symptoms for 10 days, you can go back to school with a mask while still monitoring symptoms.


If you have symptoms, quarantine the full two weeks and get tested.


And what happens if too many students are quarantined?

Now schools can go virtual in the following scenarios:

  • They don’t have enough staff to operate.
  • If 30 percent or more of students are out quarantining.
  • If at least 5 percent of students are positive.
  • If local health officials recommend it.

Once virtual, the schools should stay virtual for a week or two and then re-evaluate. But kids need to be in the classroom, and leaders say it’s up to you.

“Get vaccinated. If you’re eligible to be vaccinated, wear a mask, encourage your children to wear a mask, again. We can’t require it but we can strongly encourage it, we’re gonna continue to do that,” said King Laurence, Aiken County Public Schools superintendent.

We reached out to Aiken County education leaders to see if any of the five schools with current quarantine numbers over 30 percent are looking to go virtual. They’re looking into that for us.


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