South Carolina governor urges schools to open for in-person classes

South Carolina governor urges schools to open for in-person classes
© Sean Rayford/Getty Images

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) is urging schools to reopen after Labor Day as coronavirus cases continue to increase across the state. 

McMaster said Wednesday that each district will be required to submit a reopening plan that gives families an option to send children to school for five days a week. 

“We must give parents the choice. This is the only thing that we’re asking these districts to do today, is to give the parents the choice,” McMaster said at a briefing.

ADVERTISEMENT

“If the parent wants to send their child back to school they should be able to do so, and to do so with confidence," he added. "If the parents want to keep the child at home, they should be able to do that and to do it with confidence." 

McMaster said he has asked the state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman not to approve any district’s plan that doesn’t give parents the choice to send children to school for in-person instruction. 

Spearman, a Republican, was absent from McMaster’s press conference Wednesday, but the governor said she had been invited, according to The State. 

Spearman reportedly issued a statement at the same time as McMaster’s briefing that said reopening decisions should be made by local officials and that parents should have a choice between in-person and virtual instruction. In her statement, she also said that state can’t “turn a blind eye” to health risks the virus poses to adults and children, according to The State

“School leaders, in consultation with public health experts, are best positioned to determine how in-person operations should be carried out to fit the needs of their local communities,” Spearman said in her statement, according to the paper. “I remain committed to supporting them in this endeavor and will only approve those plans that offer high quality options and keep safety as their top priority.”

A range of teacher groups in the state pushed back on the governor’s announcement, calling the pandemic a threat to both them and children, The State reported.

ADVERTISEMENT

The governor’s push for schools to reopen comes as South Carolina has seen some of its highest daily counts of coronavirus cases. The state topped 2,000 cases two times in the last week, according to The State.

South Carolina’s health department has reported more than 62,000 coronavirus cases and 984 confirmed deaths as of Wednesday. 

The Trump administration has been pushing for schools to reopen in the fall, and has threatened to withhold federal funding from districts that do not give the option for in-person instruction.