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Chester County Schools institutes mask policy, defying SC law

Chester County's School Board voted 6-1 to require face coverings on school grounds starting Aug. 30.

CHESTER, S.C. — The Chester County School District is going against South Carolina’s state law by requiring face coverings in schools. The school board made the decision Monday night in a 6-1 vote. 

The policy will go into effect on Monday, Aug. 30.

Chester County’s School Superintendent Antwon Sutton said the decision was prompted after 200 students were placed under quarantine in the first week of school.

RELATED: ACLU sues South Carolina over ban on school mask mandates

“We wanted to show the community that we were at least trying to mitigate or prevent more students from having to quarantine or be out of school,” Sutton said.

The school district made the decision despite a South Carolina law that says public schools can’t use state money for mandating masks in schools.

RELATED: SC schools are not allowed to mandate mask-wearing, so Rock Hill Schools are 'strongly' encouraging them

“We’re not going to be using any state funds to purchase any masks for our district,” said Sutton, adding that the district has stockpiles of masks already in storage and will rely on donations from the community if it needs more.

RELATED: Attorney general says lawsuit over USC mask mandate should be thrown out

Still, Sutton says he’s worried about how this will affect funding but must prioritize the health of staff and students.

“I have to balance losing state funding or losing students or staff to death,” Sutton said. “So as superintendent, I’m trying to save lives.”

Sutton says the district is still hashing out details like how the policy will be enforced. There are parents on both sides of the issue who feel strongly after the decision.

“To see the Chester County School District take a stand is admirable,”  parent Keila Feaster said. “I hope we continue to see more things like this in the future when it comes to our kids and their wellbeing and safety.”

Others say the district should follow the governor’s orders.

“It’s not a one size fits all issue for me,” parent Erin Mosley said, “And I think it should be up to the parents to decide if their children are going to be masked or not.”

Mosley said she wished the district would have given parents time to speak at the meeting publicly before making the decision. The chair of the school board says it came down to timing.

“The urgency of making this happen when you have eight classes quarantined,” said Doug Shannon, chair of Chester County’s School Board.

Shannon said the district will revisit the issue in 60 days to see if case numbers have gone down.

Contact Indira Eskieva at ieskieva@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.