Some parents in Lexington-Richland 5 are upset about a breach in the district’s vaccination policy.
Comments on social media claimed that a football coach at Dutch Fork High School had separated vaccinated players from players who had not received the vaccine. A district spokeswoman said that was untrue, but that players had been asked about their vaccination status, which is against district policy.
“We don’t track that,” said spokeswoman Laura McElveen. “Our belief is that’s a family decision.”
She said currently sports programs in the district follow guidance from the S.C. High School League. Leaguecommissioner Jerome Singleton told The State on Thursday that officials want the schools to continue practicing sanitation habits and protocols that DHEC has in place and that were used last year.
The school district also pointed to guidance on “continuous monitoring of students’ health,” and practicing social distancing at sporting events as much as possible.
As far as getting the vaccine, Singleton said it is up to the individual to decide whether to get one and there won’t be any mandate from the league that an athlete needs to be vaccinated to play sports. The high school league has partnered with DHEC and the Department of Education to set up to mini vaccination clinics.
“We want to help them to get access. We will support their decision in place for involvement in that,” Singleton said.
Last year, Lexington-Richland 5 set up a COVID-19 dashboard on the district website, updating confirmed COVID-19 cases among faculty and students, and tracking how many of each were in quarantine after coming in contact with someone with the coronavirus.
It’s unclear how the wider availability of the vaccine for minors age 12 and up could affect those policies. Guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently say vaccinated individuals don’t have to regularly test for the virus and don’t need to quarantine after exposure as long as they don’t show any symptoms of the disease.
An email sent out by the district this week said quarantines will be required for five to seven days after a COVID-19 exposure during the 2021-22 school year, while “e-learning will continuously improve.” Schools will not require students to wear masks on campus next year, and staff will not encourage unvaccinated students to get the vaccine.
“Should we encourage students over 12 years of age to get vaccinated? No,” the email reads. “We believe the decision to get the COVID-19 vaccination is a family decision and should be made by the parents/guardians. No student should be advised to get the COVID-19 vaccination by a school district employee.”
About half of eligible South Carolina residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation. Health officials have said more than 90% of new coronavirus cases are in unvaccinated people, and most of them are estimated to be the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.