Clarendon School District 2 calls for nixing state budget proviso that prohibits mask mandates in schools


Clarendon School District 2 will join other school districts in the state that are calling on state lawmakers to repeal a controversial amendment in the state budget that prohibits mask mandates in schools.

The Manning-based school district introduced a resolution at Tuesday's school board meeting asking the state's General Assembly to repeal Proviso 1.108, a condition in the state's budget that states public school districts can't use state funds to implement mask mandates for students or staff. If the district goes against this proviso, it risks losing state funding.

Shawn Johnson, the district's superintendent, said if they have more than 5% of their students attend school virtually, the district is at risk to lose 47.22% of its EFA funding from the state. He said he thinks that if they have local control, they can make better decisions to limit the spread of the virus.

The resolution is a template from the South Carolina's School Board Association asking for local school boards to give their support for overturning the proviso.

"The school board association supports mobile control," Johnson said. "So, if they overturn Proviso 1.108, then we will have more control of whether we go virtual or if we have a virtual option ... more than 5% of students as well as not having the financial stigma connected to the proviso."

Parents, school officials and education advocates said the proviso is creating barriers for school leaders to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in their schools.

The debatable measure has been a hot topic for discussion in the Palmetto State since it was passed by state lawmakers in July. Many school officials said the proviso was passed at a time when the pandemic was settling down but that now that cases are raging again, it needs to be reassessed.

The board voted 8-1 to pass the resolution with board member Pete Surette opposed.

The district returned to in-person learning on Monday after reverting to virtual instruction for two weeks with surges and hundreds of students in quarantine.

As of Wednesday, CSD2 has had nearly 600 students and staff members who have been quarantined since the beginning of the school year, according to school officials.

Petition circulating to rename gym after late coach

Also at Tuesday's meeting, Kaleena Gibson, a Manning native and academic interventionist at Lesslie Elementary School in Rock Hill, presented a petition to the school board to consider naming the Manning Junior High School gymnasium in honor of the late Premuel Crosby Gibson.

Premuel Gibson began her career in 1967 as an educator and later coach at Manning Training School, the school founded in the early 20th century where local African-American students attended before integration with Manning High School, the former all-white school, in 1970. She coached for numerous sports at the school, including softball, cheerleading, basketball and track and field. She retired in 1999 and continued to serve in the community until her death in 2018.

Kaleena Gibson said the former coach was a dedicated teacher and coach in the community. She said she started the petition to preserve and honor the contributions of the late coach's legacy in athletics and the community. The petition has more than 600 signatures.

Johnson said board members will use the same process with this petition as with the renaming of Manning High School's baseball field after the late Guy Richard Coker and will revisit the issue at their next meeting in October.