Seventy school districts across the state will receive $10 million worth of personal protective equipment and Plexiglas desk shields from the state’s $155 million COVID-19 response reserve starting this week, including at least 15 Upstate school districts.
The initiative, passed into law under Act 135 on May 12, was announced by Gov. Henry McMaster, S.C. School Superintendent Molly Spearman and local political leaders at a Wednesday press conference hosted at the Anderson Institute of Technology.
“They have been isolated from their teachers, their friends and their daily routines,” McMaster said. “We are now learning more than we knew before about how isolation and uncertainty can impact the mental health of our children. Superintendent Molly Spearman and I are in strong agreement that children need to return to the classroom.” He added that out-of-classroom learning can have a negative effect on any student, but especially those that are most vulnerable to learning gaps.
“If we do not educate our children, if we have a generation or a class or a group that falls behind … they will be paying the price for that for years to come,” he said during the event.
McMaster thanked the South Carolina General Assembly for “getting this done” in March and ensuring that the 70 school districts that had asked for PPE and 25 districts needing Plexiglas desk shields were granted their requests.
“The Upstate of South Carolina and all of our school districts are ready, and we’re doing everything we possibly can to make sure that the classroom is safe, that the expectations are high, much higher than they were in March,” Spearman said.
Purchased equipment included 248,953 boxes of masks, 54,153 face shields and 46,591 boxes of gloves, while more than 600,000 adult cloth masks, 80,700 N-95 masks and 96,600 face shields were sourced from the state’s Emergency Management Division along with 11,600 gallons hand sanitizer from the Department of Transportation.
Eleven districts including Anderson Districts 2 and 4, Greenwood District 52, Pickens and Spartanburg Districts 1 and 2 did not send in a request for PPE, according to a list distributed at the event. All other Upstate school districts received the requested amount of either PPE or desk barriers.
“These are the things that happen when everybody pulls in the same direction,” S.C. Sen. Mike Gambrell said at the event as he thanked both business and political leaders for their solidarity during the pandemic.
McMaster also spoke at Kershaw County’s Wateree Elementary School today with plans to visit Florence County’s Johnville Middle School Friday.
“It’s absolutely critical that our students, teachers, administrators, and other school employees are provided the resources they need to operate our schools in the safest possible way,” McMaster said in a news release.s