Fort Mill Schools shows new COVID protocols in new school, some parents want more

Numbers are climbing again like what we saw in the winter surge at the beginning of the year.
Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 6:37 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 10, 2021 at 7:36 PM EDT
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FORT MILL, S.C. (WBTV) - Right now, in York County, COVID-19 trends still heading in the wrong direction.

The county reported 188 new cases of the virus last Thursday alone. Numbers are climbing again like what we saw in the winter surge at the beginning of the year. However, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Monday there is no path to a mask mandate in schools or closing the state down until cases go back down.

“Shutting our state down, closing schools and masking children, who have no choice, for the government to mask children, who have no choice, to protect adults, who do have a choice, is the wrong thing to do and we’re not going to do it,” said McMaster.

With children and faculty soon to be back in the classroom, schools are finding strategies to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible. COVID protocols are still being set up in some schools, but the Fort Mill School district has its plan down pat.

Parents and students should expect protocols to look different than last year. Masks will be optional and desks will only be three feet instead of six. For some parents, that is not good enough.

”There’s a lot of uncertainty, anxiety, frustration,” said Everett Salyer, who is a parent to a Fort Mill Schools second grader.

All those feelings flooding Salyer’s mind as he prepares to send his second grader to school in less than a week, but with Fort Mill’s COVID protocols falling short in his eyes, he is not too confident.

”Their number one job is to provide a safe learning environment so that the students can prosper. And I just don’t think they are providing that,” Salyer said.

So what will students like Salyer’s son be stepping into in the new school year? Fort Mill Schools spokesperson Joe Burke took WBTV through their new middle school to show what it looks like. The Forest Creek Middle School will open for the first time this August.

”We’re doing our best to try to put our parents and our students and our staff and our community in a safe and healthy environment to learn in,” said Burke.

There are plenty of changes.

It might not look like it now, but all desks will be three feet apart, which is down from the six feet the school implemented last year.

Desk shields have been taken down. Students will not be required to wear masks because of state laws. Plus, a new air quality control system will help kill COVID, flu and mold in elementary and middle schools.

”This is a way for us to step up and improve that air quality. Not only for during COVID but also for the future,” said Burke.

There are some things staying the same.

The same signage students saw last year keeping them on separate sides of the hall or telling them to avoid touching their nose and mouth.

Handwashing, contact tracing and quarantine protocols will all be in place to keep spread low.

The quarantine protocols will be different for fully vaccinated individuals. For example, fully vaccinated teachers and students will not have to quarantine after exposure.

However, Salyer says these things are not enough if students are sitting closer to each other without masks.

”The thing about this community no matter what any parent feels about masking or no masking every single one of them wants to see their kids go to school safely,” says Salyer.

He wants to come to a compromise with the parents and the district. Ditch the three feet and add just three more so everyone can get what they want.

”I just think we need to do more of a job instead of trying to be heard sit down and hear from one another and try to find common ground,” he says.

Fort Mill School district has a board meeting Tuesday night at 6 where some parents plan to advocate for stricter COVID-19 guidelines.

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