Charleston County School District’s Board of Trustees voted Monday to require everyone inside school facilities as the first day of fall classes approaches Wednesday and COVID-19 case numbers continue climbing. Charleston City Council will consider a similar rule for all public facilities Tuesday. Both moves come in defiance of rules enacted by state politicians to head-off virus-related precautions.
District leaders met in executive session for more than two hours during a special board meeting added to the schedule Monday and took no other action than to suspend its rules to pass the mask requirement. North Charleston Trustee Cindy Bohn Coats, the only vote against the proposal, said she thought enforcement would be an issue.
Trustee Eric Mack said he and his colleagues received “medical insight” about the rapidly spreading delta variant, as well as “legal advice” related to a state law passed to bar districts from enacting mask mandates.
“After further discussion and in talking — in the dialogues with that — we came out with this motion today to get us through the next 60 days, at least, in protection with our staff and our students,” Mack said.
Trustee Courtney Waters said the board was told the delta variant is expected to peak in September and decline after that.
A meeting called for Tuesday was canceled after trustees took action Monday evening.
Some aspects of back-to-school season are already feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 spike: A planned fall football season kickoff event last week was canceled after more than half the teams pulled out over COVID-19 concerns.
Monday’s meeting came hours after Charleston City Council added an emergency ordinance to its Tuesday agenda to pass a citywide mask mandate as well, with its members saying they were prepared to go to court to enact the public safety measure.
Last week, Attorney General Alan Wilson took issue with measures passed by the City of Columbia that would have required public school students to wear masks. Monday, state Democrats began calling on GOP leaders to bring lawmakers back to Columbia to repeal a budget proviso that banned local action related to schools.
As an emergency ordinance, Charleston City Council’s proposal would need approval from two-thirds of its members and would immediately take effect for 60 days.