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'Parents are concerned' | More than 1K students quarantined in Lancaster County

Parents started a petition calling for more COVID-19 safety protocols in schools.

LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. — The Lancaster County School District is reporting 139 positive cases and more than 1,000 students and staff quarantined after the first week of school. In comparison, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Lancaster County has more than 12,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, or approximately 11% of the population.

Some parents have started a Facebook page and a petition, calling on the district to implement more safety protocols in classrooms.

“I’ve emailed the superintendent, I’ve emailed the COO, and I’ve gotten responses that there are protocols in place and there just aren’t,” said Indian Land parent Amy Derrenberger. “I said, ‘Are they talking to you about washing your hand?’ Nope. ‘Are they making sure you use antibacterial soap?’ Nope. ‘Are they washing down desks?’ He said, ‘I’ve seen them do that one time.’”

Van Wyck father Noah Morris wants to see the district push back against South Carolina’s law that says no masks can be mandated in schools, adding that he’s concerned that his two older children will bring COVID-19 home to his infant.

“There are no protocols in place," Morris said. "There is no social distancing going on, there are no partitions in the classrooms.”

RELATED: Cabarrus County Schools students head back to class with masks required

RELATED: For the 1st time since 2019, Gaston County Schools return to 5 days a week of in-person instruction

Morris said his younger child was placed under quarantine, while his older child had someone in the classroom test positive but was not quarantined because it wasn’t considered a close contact by the district. 

He said he was concerned his older child was still exposed to the virus and wanted to quarantine by choice but says he was told by the district those absences would be considered unexcused.

“If we choose to pull our older daughter out of school to quarantine for 14 days, that's something we can do. And they said ‘No, we will not excuse that absence, we will not allow her to miss classes,’ even though clearly half of the class is set up for virtual,” Morris said.

Lancaster County School Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Phipps defended the school district, saying the district is working to follow CDC guidelines, but full capacity classrooms make it difficult to keep students apart.

Lancaster County doesn’t have a virtual academy because of teacher shortages, but South Carolina does offer full-time virtual schooling.

“When you have sometimes 30 students within a class, it’s next to impossible to promise that all day. I understand parents are concerned,” said Phipps, “And I’ve responded to some parents and said, ‘I’m with you.”

Phipps said if he mandates masks, the district could lose critical state funding due to a South Carolina law.

“We just couldn’t operate,” he said, “We couldn’t pay the teachers. We couldn’t keep the doors open.”

Parents still wish more was being done.

“I was pretty shocked this year going to the open house and seeing all the desks pushed back together,” said Lourdes Molina, whose child is under quarantine one week after school started.

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

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