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  • Health care workers and educators in South Carolina are doubling down on calls for lawmakers to roll back a provision that bans masks in schools. Pediatricians, school nurses and teachers on Tuesday described the toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking on students and in children's hospitals. They want lawmakers to repeal a state rule that prevents school districts from using state money to enforce a rule requiring masks. More than 88,000 students and staff have been quarantined this school year so far. Schools have recorded nearly 21,000 COVID-19 cases this fall, almost 7,000 more than they counted all of last year.
  • In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter. Classes, schools and entire districts have gone virtual, leaving parents frustrated and teachers quitting weeks into the school year. Republicans backed a provision to ban masks in schools in June when cases were low and have not budged. Now teachers, students and parents are struggling with the fallout as more young people contract the delta variant, forcing nearly two dozen schools and two entire districts back to online learning within a month of returning in person.
  • Starting Monday, every student in South Carolina's second largest school district will have to wear a mask inside schools or have to go to online learning. Charleston County schools passed a mask rule in August, but was working to find a away around a South Carolina budget rule that state money can't be spent to enforce masks in schools. The district will use reserve money so state money from this budget year is not used.
  • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says Kershaw County schools are a model in the state for fighting COVID-19 without requiring students to wear masks. The governor toured Camden Elementary School on Wednesday. He saw the thermal scanner that takes the temperature of every student as they walk in without them having to stop. The school also puts a lot of effort into contact tracing, only quarantining people who are within 3 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes. McMaster and Republican legislators back a one-year ban on school mask mandates put in the budget. State health officials have asked them to remove it.
  • The Education Department says it's investigating five Republican-led states that have banned mask requirements in schools, saying the policies could amount to discrimination against students with disabilities or health conditions. The department's office for civil rights sent letters to education chiefs in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. Those states have barred schools from requiring masks among students and staff, a move that the department says could prevent some students from safely attending school.
  • South Carolina's highest court will hear two challenges to the state's refusal to let school districts require masks for students and teachers this week. The state Supreme Court has set aside two hours to hear the cases Tuesday. South Carolina lawmakers passed an item in the state budget in June threatening school districts with losing state money if they required masks. The local governments involved in the cases are Columbia and Richland 2 schools. They will likely argue that requiring or banning masks has no place in the state budget, a bill whose purpose is to raise and spend money. South Carolina law requires legislation to have one clear subject.
  • South Carolina students will again be required to wear masks on school buses starting Monday as COVID-19 cases among children and students are rising rapidly. The state Education Department told schools in July they did not have to make students on buses wear masks. But the agency changed its mind in a letter Thursday, bringing it into line with federal health rules about masks on buses.
  • A growing number of school districts in South Carolina are defying a provision from state lawmakers banning mandatory face coverings for students. But not all. Many districts are afraid the General Assembly will withhold state budget money if they do so. Lawmakers passed the ban mostly along party lines in June, when the state was seeing 20 times fewer new COVID-19 cases. Many districts and some lawmakers with second thoughts hope a state Supreme Court challenge to the mask rule will make things clearer. But there is no indication when the justices might rule.
  • Hundreds of South Carolina students are already quarantined for COVID-19 at the start of the fall semester as the delta variant has led to a surge in cases. That's prompting some local governments to consider whether to require masks in schools in spite of a state budget proviso that bans districts from doing so without risking funding. Richland County Council is expected to vote Monday evening on an emergency ordinance to require the face coverings in schools and day cares. It could join the city of Columbia in doing so.
  • The Mobile Pantry program is part of a larger, school-district-wide effort to address community food insecurity — an issue that has affected Rock Hill and a substantial part of South Carolina, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.