Will Fort Mill schools be firm or flexible on requiring students to wear masks when they return to in-person learning next week?

At Tuesday night’s board meeting, school trustee Scott Frattaroli pleaded for the firm approach, asking that the district require face coverings at all times and emphasize the rule to everyone.

“I would hate for us – if we have already said masks will be mandated – to literally let our guard down and allow for groups of students to take their masks off here or there,” Dr. Frattaroli said. (Story continues below)

Trustees Brian Murphy, left, and Dr. Scott Frattaroli, right, are shown from a school board meeting over the summer.

He said the district’s messaging should be that masks are required at all times. Otherwise, teachers may differ in their approaches, which would be bad since York County’s Coronavirus cases are dropping.

“I just think that is opening the door. That is leaving a lot of discretion,” Dr. Frattaroli said. “I have a concern about that.”

On Tuesday, Chief Communications Officer Joe Burke released the district’s position in a statement to the Fort Mill Sun:

“The district will continue with our plan for all students and staff to wear face coverings at school and while using bus transportation. There will be instances throughout the day when students will be allowed to remove their face coverings. These times include while eating, receiving medication, performing physical activities and during recess. The district will also allow short mask breaks for students when safety measures and proper social distancing allow for it. Examples of these times include but are not limited to: When a counselor is meeting with a student (behind a plastic partition); an administrator is meeting with a student (behind a plastic partition); when a student is injured or upset and needs to remove mask temporarily; when students are maintaining social distance and are not talking, engaging, or moving around the room; and for elementary students, when behind the plastic partition at their desk.”

In comparison, Rock Hill Schools are taking the firm approach. The school board voted 6-1 on Monday to require students and staff in Rock Hill schools to wear masks at all times while inside district buildings or on district transportation.

Rock Hill students will NOT be allowed to take mask breaks scheduled by school-level administration inside the classroom, according to media reports. Face coverings may be removed only during mealtimes and outdoor recess when people can maintain a distance of six feet. Other exceptions: if someone has trouble breathing from a medical emergency or if anyone is unconscious or unable to remove the mask without assistance.

In Fort Mill, the district announced in July that it would require the use of face coverings by students and staff for in-person learning. About 30 percent of students are not returning and choosing to learn through the Virtual Academy.

The district is providing face coverings to all staff and will provide face coverings for any student who cannot provide their own.

Greg Rickabaugh

Greg "Ricky Bobby" Rickabaugh has lived in the Fort Mill and York County community since 2006. He has covered the area while a reporter for The Charlotte Observer and a freelance writer for The Fort Mill...