Morris College will require masks as students prepare to return this fall


While public schools in South Carolina open their doors without a mask mandate and the state experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases, a Sumter college will follow its own path in making sure its students stay healthy.

Morris College is requiring that students, faculty and staff wear masks in public areas at the start of the 2021-22 school year.

A proviso in the state budget prohibits public schools from using public money to mandate masks. However, because Morris College is a private institution, this proviso does not affect it, giving the historically Black college flexibility to issue a mask mandate for everyone's protection on campus.

"We have developed protocols for regulating the spread of possible infection of students, faculty and staff on campus," Morris College President Leroy Staggers said.

According to Staggers, the college has been doing everything it can to minimize the spread of the coronavirus and reported a dozen students that tested positive with no serious conditions during the spring semester. He and school officials hope for a lower number of outbreaks this fall. COVID-19 testing will also be mandated for faculty and students, and the college will keep the same safety protocols - including hand washing, social distancing, plexiglass barriers in classrooms and the rearrangement of living and dining room facilities - from the last semester when the college returned to an in-person curriculum. The college will continue to monitor the changeable conditions of the delta variant and will develop contingency plans if the variant evolves in the future.

Returning students will come back to campus today, and classes are scheduled to begin on Thursday.