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Trustees change plan for meeting attendance

The Abbeville County School District Board of Trustees agreed Tuesday night in a special meeting to change its attendance policy for board meetings, agreeing to allow 10 participants to sit six feet apart, following social distancing guidelines.

The meetings had, with the coronavirus pandemic, been open to the public via livestream only.

Only essential persons had been allowed in the board room "as we are implementing social distancing in the wake of COVID-19," in the words of a School District meeting agenda.

Various options had been on the table, including leaving the current arrangement alone, with no public attendance.

Other options included the following:

  • Allowing five participants with a three minute time limit each (per Policy BEDH)

  • Moving to an alternate location and being open for participants to sit six feet apart following social distancing guidelines

School board chairman James Tisdale, Jr., said that he supported the livestreaming concept, and there was discussion about how livestreaming could continue.

The trustees are planning to look at the new direction on a month by month basis, to see how it works.

"The goal was to increase public participation, and not everybody in Abbeville County has access to the Internet," said trustee David Brooks.

The board also heard about something mentioned considerably during the pandemic -- face masks.

Students in public schools throughout South Carolina must wear face masks or face coverings in public school buildings for the 2021 school year, according to a directive from State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman last week.

Students were already being required to wear masks on buses for the coming school year.

The directive from Spearman, meanwhile, was a point on the agenda for last night's meeting, and interim Superintendent Dr. Mason Gary touched on some of the questions surrounding the directive.

He told the board that since the directive was passed down last week, some clarification has come from the State.

Do children have to wear face coverings all day?

"No," Dr. Gary said, explaining that according to the clarification sent out, when a student enters a classroom and is socially distanced, he may, at the direction of a teacher or administrator, remove his or her mask.

The trustees noted that younger children might not wear masks properly.

"We are dealing with a situation that we have never encountered before," Tisdale said of the pandemic, and of the virus, he said, "It is alive and well."

The Trustees also passed first reading on policies relating to Title IX, including regulations on sexual harassment.

The Trustees also approved a homeschool application during the meeting.

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