Sumter school board calls special meeting for Thursday on mask mandate


After a federal judge temporarily stopped the state from enforcing a one-year state law that bans school districts from requiring masks, Sumter School District's Board of Trustees will have a special called meeting Thursday.

A district staff member posted a meeting agenda online Wednesday afternoon, and it states that trustees will discuss the federal district court ruling and also a district mask mandate.

The mask mandate is also listed as an action item, according to the agenda, which means trustees will vote for or against a requirement or potentially postpone a vote.

The immediate effect of Tuesday's federal court order is that the state is prohibited from enforcing Proviso 1.108 and school districts now have the discretionary authority to require masks, according to a state Department of Education memorandum on Wednesday sent to district superintendents.

Thursday's special-called meeting will be at 5:15 p.m. at the district office, 1345 Wilson Hall Road.

The meeting is open to the public, but seating is limited to first come, first served, due to COVID-19.

For those not physically attending, the district continues to broadcast meetings live on YouTube.

All people wanting to attend the meetings virtually can do so via YouTube Sumter School District Board Meeting and the district's Facebook page, @SumterSCSchools.

As background, the local board has discussed implementing a face mask requirement for students and staff, only to not pass the measure, at four consecutive meetings dating back to Aug. 9. At the last three meetings, temporary mask mandates have failed by 5-4 split votes among the trustees.

The sticking point has been the proviso, which states school districts cannot use any state-controlled or state-appropriated money to implement or enforce a mask requirement for their students or faculty/staff. School districts that go against the proviso, which is a one-year law, can lose key educational funding.

Thursday's special called meeting will be followed by a Transportation Study Ad Hoc Committee meeting that was already scheduled for 6 p.m. at the district office. That meeting is also open to the public, but seating is limited to first come, first served. It will also be broadcast live on YouTube.