COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – With the state moving into Phase 1b of its COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan next week, Governor Henry McMaster is again calling for schools to return to 5-day in-person instruction.
Phase 1b includes frontline workers with increased occupational risk of exposure due to their frequent, close and ongoing face-to-face contact with others in the work environment – this includes K-12 educators, higher education personnel and childcare workers.
Governor McMaster was joined by State Superintendent of Education, Molly Spearman and DHEC Director, Dr. Edward Simmer, for the announcement Tuesday morning in Columbia.
“Many local health care providers in school districts have planned to conduct teacher-specific vaccination clinics to be held on school grounds on weekends, afternoons or at specific times. These coordinated clinics will allow teachers to be vaccinated quicker than if the teachers had to make their own individual appointments,” said Gov. McMaster.
During the press conference, Gov. McMaster said: “We know that students have lost significant learning progress due simply to being out of the classroom. It is clear, not only in South Carolina but all over the country, parents should not have to choose between their jobs and their children.”
He said parents must have the option of sending their children to schools five days a week for face-to-face instruction. “That is why they pay taxes,” he said. “Our schools must open 5-days a week.”
Gov. McMaster said he has repeatedly asked the General Assembly to send him a bill requiring all schools to offer parents the option of in-person 5-day a week instruction for their children.
“They must have that option, and today I repeat that request to the General Assembly. There are no more excuses or justifications for every one of our schools not to be open five days a week for face-to-face instruction,” he said. “The consequences of not doing that are immeasurable. Our schools must be open.”
State Superintendent Molly Spearman said she has been fighting for educators and school staff to have priority access to COVID-19 vaccines since the start of 2021. “While today’s announcement doesn’t exactly prioritize educators and staff, I’m very grateful that they are now eligible, and that the vaccination plans at every school district have in place with vaccine providers can now be put into place.”
Spearman urged teachers and school staff members to take the vaccine as soon as it is offered to them. “Do not wait,” she said. “It is safe, and our students need you in the classroom delivering high-quality instruction.”
She echoed Gov. McMaster in saying that every family must be given the option to send their children to school five days a week face-to-face. “I’m asking every school district in South Carolina to implement a 5-day a week plan immediately,” she said.
People eligible for Phase 1b will be able to get their vaccines beginning Monday, March 8th.