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Children show up for school at Conway Elementary School on the first day of school in Horry County on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Horry County Schools does not plan to enact any mask mandates.

“Given the current circumstances with this positive movement [in COVID-19 case numbers], that would not be appropriate at this time,” HCS Superintendent Rick Maxey said. “I am very optimistic about where we are right now.”

As of Friday morning, there were 189 current COVID-19 cases among 160 students and 29 staff, with 2,100 students in quarantine.

South Carolina's school districts were initially prohibited from mandating masks in schools because of a provision that state lawmakers included in their budget. But following a federal judge's ruling upending the policy — saying that said the proviso was discriminatory to students with disabilities — State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said school districts had the discretion to require masks.

Yet HCS officials said Monday that they don't see a need for such a policy, at least not now.

Referencing the school district's data, Maxey noted that the spike of COVID-19 cases happened around Sept. 3 and has seen a steady decline.

However, if there is ever another sharp increase in cases, Maxey said the district would look to see where those cases were spiking and react the same way the district did in September – only closing the schools directly affected.

“Just like we approached the schools where there were high numbers, we didn’t shut down the school district – we addressed the problem where the problem existed,” Maxey said.

The district plans to continue the current steps being taken to mitigate COVID-19 in schools, including encouraging masks on buses, social distancing, hand washing and sanitization.

Maxey also said that should the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) change any quarantine requirements, district officials will adjust HCS directives accordingly.

Board chairman Ken Richardson said that on their school visits, one major issue that the board members hear about is parents still sending children to school sick.

“It affects the entire school district,” Richardson said. “Keep them home, get them tested. Find out where they stand before you bring them to school.”

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