COLUMBIA, S.C. — Masks will once again be mandated on South Carolina school buses for the majority of riders following a reversal by the state's department of education.
State School Superintendent Molly Spearman sent out a letter to transportation directors and other leaders in South Carolina on Thursday. In it, Spearman explained why the state first moved away from enforcement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order and why it is now moving back.
Spearman explained that the initial decision to drop the requirement was made "at a time when COVID-19 transmission rates and case counts across South Carolina were very low."
However, with cases now on the rise across the state, Spearman said it would be necessary for the mask mandate on school buses to return. Spearman added that all districts must be in compliance with the requirement no later than Aug. 30.
The budget proviso, or spending condition, that bans mask mandates in schools does not specifically mention buses, meaning the state still had the authority to make this requirement. A lawsuit over that proviso will be heard by the South Carolina Supreme Court next week.
The South Carolina Department of Education will be equipping all state-owned school buses with "an adequate supply of face coverings" that it says meet CDC requirements. Any student who boards the bus without a mask is supposed to have a mask offered. However, no student is to be denied transportation for failure to adhere to the order.
As with many orders, there are exceptions to this one regarding who is required to follow it. Specifically, this exemption applies to those who cannot take them off on their own should they experience respiratory issues such as those with disabilities, either physical or mental.
A person who uses an "assistive device" for mobility or communication that would not be usable while wearing a mask may also be exempt.