Florence 1 Schools votes to require masks indoors for 60 days

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FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — The Florence 1 Schools board voted unanimously Thursday night to require masks indoors for 60 days.

The requirement will go in effect Friday and will be re-evaluated at the October school board meeting. The board said no state funds will be used for the requirement, as the district already has plenty of masks on hand.

Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley said in the 10 months of requiring masks last year, not a single person complained to him about it. He also noted this week there are 115 students and 14 staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19, up from eight students and eight staff last week.

O’Malley said so far the trend appears to be headed at the same rate for next week. He said a mask requirement is better than the alternative of virtual learning.

O’Malley talked about the mental toll virtual learning takes on the students.

“We’ve been in school 14 days. I’ve had 14 suicide attempts,” O’Malley said. “So that’s what we’re dealing with…that’s why we’re trying to stay in school.”

Parents shared their points of view, both for and against masks in schools.

“Let’s try and save some of these children, please,” one parent said during the public comment session. “I can get up here and fuss, holler, make waves in the water, but all I’ve really got to say is look at yourselves, you got a mask on, man!”

“I’m the opposite of a lot of people in here and I do not want my child wearing a mask,” another parent said.

O’Malley recommended the requirement during his Superintendent’s Report.

“I don’t know how it became a debate,” O’Malley said. “I don’t care if it offers 1% protection. That’s 1% more that I don’t have today.”

“I am asking the board this evening to consider to implement the masks,” he said. “It’s another tool we have…all I want is for you to give me the tools to keep our kids in school.”

Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a lawsuit against the City of Columbia for its school mask mandate earlier Thursday.

“The school boards should be making this decision, not coming from our state leaders,” board member Alexis Pipkins said in an interview with News13 earlier Thursday. “School boards were established at the will of the General Assembly so we should be making the decision, not in a proviso that hinders our ability as elected officials here locally.”

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