Florence 1 Schools mask mandate expires

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FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW)– The Florence 1 Schools board of trustees met Thursday night. One topic they discussed was the district-wide masking requirement. It was set to be reevaluated 60 days after it was enacted. The board did not renew it.

The discussion was not on the meeting’s agenda. It was on the agenda for the September meeting but was tabled. Board member Alexis Pipkins raised questions about the mandate during superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley’s COVID-19 update.

Board chairman Porter S. Stewart said it is now up to administrators to decide what to do for their particular school. He said the district-wide mandate was only necessary due to the state proviso that he said prevented schools from enacting mandates themselves. The legality of that proviso has been challenged by a federal court and is no longer in effect.

Superintendent O’Malley cited falling COVID-19 case numbers among students and staff as one justification for ending the mandate. He said there were nearly 350 cases district-wide when it was enacted in August. He said there were under forty positive cases last week.

“It was just trying to keep everyone healthy the best way we can,” O’Malley said. “This was just another tool.”

Not all the board members agreed with letting the mandate expire, but Chairman Stewart reminded them that the meeting’s agenda had already been approved.

“South Carolina does not yet have herd immunity. We are still in a state of emergency,” Pipkins said. “May God have mercy upon us.”

Superintendent O’Malley said the district will continue to strongly encourage mask wearing. He said the board would be able to reevaluate and enact another mask mandate at a later time if necessary.

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