Opting Out of Face Masks During Class – But Still Wear on the Bus

Governor Henry McMaster issued an Executive Order Tuesday giving a parent or legal guardian the option of opting out of their child having to wear a face mask in school. Even though just released, it was to become effective today. Laurens County School Districts 55 and 56 yesterday issued statements that the opt-out option does not apply to school buses. Students must still wear masks on the bus.

District 56 states that a hard copy of the form for parents to request their students “opt out” of wearing masks in school, has been sent home with all students across District 56. Effective today, May 13th, parents may complete a mask opt-out form that would allow students to not wear a mask during the school day. Parents have the option to complete this consent form and return it to the appropriate school once completed. District 56 notes it is still cleaning regularly, encouraging students to hand wash frequently, and enforcing social distancing protocols. District 56 thanks parents for their patience and understanding as they navigate this change.

A District 55 release stated there were initially some discrepancies between the directives of the Executive Order and the mandates issued by the South Carolina Department of Education for school districts.  District 55 Superintendent Dr. Ameca Thomas noted that District 55 received information from the State Education Department noting that State Superintendent Molly Spearman has rescinded the state’s face-covering policy for students. Dr. Thomas noted this change applies to school buildings, but face-coverings remain a requirement on school buses per federal government mandates.”

The District 55 Superintendent said, “This change currently applies to students, but we are reviewing our policies regarding staff face-covering requirements. DHEC’s recommendations regarding COVID-19 precautions, including wearing masks, have not changed. Dr. Thomas further noted that State Superintendent Spearman and the State Department of Education continue to urge schools and districts to follow DHEC’s public health guidance as they have throughout the pandemic.”

District 55 noted a standardized opt-out form is available and is linked to the District 55 website: www.laurens.55.org. The district statement notes that a parent or legal guardian must complete the form and return it to school.