Jul 15, 2020
SC Governor Henry McMaster COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript July 15
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster held a coronavirus press conference on July 15. McMaster called for South Carolina schools to reopen for in-person teaching, and could start after Labor Day. He said, “We must give parents the choice.” Read the full press conference transcript here.
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Governor Henry McMaster: (00:22)
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you again for coming to our historic, beautiful State House. Today, we are here working for our children. The children of South Carolina are the future of our state. We have everything invested in them. We must educate every child in South Carolina. There is no nothing more essential, nothing more important that we can do than educate the children of South Carolina. And try as we might, we know that virtual education is not as good for most children as face-to- face, in-class education, teaching with an excellent, qualified teacher of which we have in abundance. So what we need to do is take every step at our disposal to see to it that our children get back in their classrooms, where they all want to be, where teachers want them to be, where the district personnel want them to be, and all of us want to be. We must do it safely, we must do it carefully, but we must do it.
Governor Henry McMaster: (01:33)
Parents need to have a choice. They need to say to their districts whether they want their children to go in class five days a week, or whether they want a virtual education at home. It must be their choice, but we must have our schools available. We have the resources. The Department of Emergency Management Division, the Department of Administration is ready to assist the districts, and we must get started with these plans. We are working for our children. The State Department of Education has directed public schools to submit their completed school reopening plans for review and approval by Friday, July 17. That’s this Friday. That’s two days from now. They have been working on them.
Governor Henry McMaster: (02:27)
Nothing is more essential than giving each of our children an excellent education. It is in our Constitution. We must do it. Today I’m calling on all the public school districts to submit reopening plans that give parents the option to send their children back to school five days a week, or parents can choose to keep their children home and receive virtual instruction. We must give parents the choice. This is the only thing that we’re asking these districts to do today, is to give the parents the choice. The parents are looking to our schools. The parents pay taxes for the schools. The Constitution provides for schools. We must see that the children have these schools available.
Governor Henry McMaster: (03:24)
If the parent wants to send their child back to school, they should be able to do so, and to do so with confidence. If the parents want to keep the child at home, they should be able to do that and do it with confidence. The district, each district must allow the parents to make that choice for their children. I ask our superintendent, Molly Spearman, not to approve any district plan that doesn’t give parents the choice to send their children to classroom face-to-face instruction.
Governor Henry McMaster: (04:01)
But let me be clear. Each district, it is the district that must craft their own reopening plans. I’m not going to issue an executive order on this. The legislature has spoken. The leadership is here. It is in the continuing resolution that it is the superintendents and the districts that will provide these plans for getting the children back to school. That is the law. What we’re asking here today is for the school districts to allow the parents to decide whether to send their children back to the classroom. As of today, a number of districts are doing just that. Anderson District 5, Berkeley County, Lexington districts 2 and 5, Pickens County, among others.
Governor Henry McMaster: (04:58)
School districts should consider selecting the date of September the eighth, Tuesday, 2020, that’s the day after Labor Day, to reopen the schools. This will allow plenty of time for the school districts to complete their plans, which we presume all have started in earnest, for the school districts to communicate with parents their plans, and to allow the parents to make the plans on whether to send the child back to school, or to choose the option of virtual learning at home. It allows the school districts time to implement new class schedules, new bus routes, pickup times, and to implement the health and safety protocols that have been recommended by various federal and state officials, including DEHIC and the CDC. Those guidelines, those recommendations. Not mandates, but guidelines and recommendations, suggestions, are known by all.
Governor Henry McMaster: (06:05)
You may remember that Congress, in the CARES Act, sent $216 million in CARES Act funds directly to the State Department of Education for COVID-19 related expenses. $216 million. These funds are there to be accessed by school districts, to pay for COVID-19 reopening expenses, such as those we’re speaking of now, and to ensure that our classrooms are safe and secure for students and teachers alike. School districts, if you have not inquired, if you’ve not established needs and what you think you will have to have, please do so right away. We cannot restrict learning by forcing students to participate in remote learning when many of our students in rural parts of the state have no access to internet at home to begin with. As you know, we are working diligently on a broadband plan to extend that around the state, but it’s not done yet. All children, regardless of their zip code, must have the opportunity to attend in-class instruction, and it is up to the parents to make that choice.
Governor Henry McMaster: (07:26)
For many South Carolina families, public schools provide the opportunity for parents to go to work. By working, of course, the parents are able to provide housing, meals, economic security, and all sorts of other things for the children. But the schools also protect many of our most vulnerable children. The Department of Social Services reports that child abuse and neglect complaints received by the agency during this pandemic have gone down. That’s because the children are not at school to alert the school teachers and the authorities there, the nurses and the teachers and the principals, of difficulties. We suspect that the incidents are going up, although the reports are going down, because the children are not in school.
Governor Henry McMaster: (08:19)
And of all our school children, about 750,000, during this pandemic, as you know, the Department of Education has had a tremendous program for feeding them all during this time. It has been quite a grand accomplishment, but there are over 10,000 of those students since this pandemic began that we have not heard from, not heard from their parents. They’ve been lost to us. We must regain that contact. And there are many more that there’s only been minimum contact. That is just one more reason for the health and wellbeing of the students, the children, why it is so important that our schools are operating and we have in-class instruction. Children have dropped off the radar because they were not physically coming to school each day.
Governor Henry McMaster: (09:13)
Children have also lost valuable learning progress due to schools being closed. We know that typically over the summer, things that the students learn, they lose by the time they come back to school. Well, you can imagine under current situations, how difficult it is, and how that is being exacerbated. We want our educational momentum to continue and to accelerate, and that means we have to get the children back in the schools. They are isolated from their teachers when they are at home, from their friends and from their daily routines, all of which are very important to them. And we are now learning even more, some frightening things about the impact of isolation and uncertainty on the mental health and emotional stability of the children. When attendance was not taken and truancy laws could not be enforced, children, for whatever reason, simply left our system. We’ve got to get the schools reopened.
Governor Henry McMaster: (10:15)
We know that no one can eliminate risk, but we’ve learned a lot about this disease and infections since this began, and the American Academy of Pediatricians or Pediatrics has issued grand guidance and insight into the risk and lack of risk in our school system for these young people. We can mitigate the risk to our teachers and students by being intentional and by being smart. There’s not one person standing here today that will not support every possible investment in the health and safety of our citizens, including our children.
Governor Henry McMaster: (10:56)
As I mentioned before, the Emergency Management Division and the Department of Administration will be directed to work diligently and directly with the school districts if they need support for personal protective equipment, masks, cleaning products, or sanitation services. So we are all on the same team, and we all have the same goal, and that is to protect and educate our children. But we must reopen our economy. People must go to work. Schools must have in-class, face- to-face teaching. So these children do not fall behind. Ladies and gentlemen, if they fall behind just in this one period, they may never catch up, and we may have a generation lost to their educational opportunities. Speaker Lucas. Excuse me. Senator. Oh, President Peeler.
President Harvey Peeler: (11:50)
Thank you. Thank you, Governor. Thank you, Speaker. A safe return to a safe learning environment is what our children want and need. Will that be difficult? Yes. Will that be impossible? No. So you may ask, what can you do to help our children to return to school this fall? A couple of things come to my mind. I want to speak to my fellow freedom lovers out there. Freedom lovers of South Carolina, if I can wear one of these uncomfortable aggravations, I know you can too. You may ask me, “Why did you start wearing one of these masks, Harvey?” Let me tell you why. I asked doctors, after doctors, after doctors around this state, who had no political agenda, their opinion on wearing mask, face covering. And to the doctor, they told me that if you’re in a confined space or someone’s in your space, you need to wear a covering of your nose and mouth. So I’m asking you to do that, number one.
President Harvey Peeler: (13:18)
My fellow freedom lovers, you know I like to quote movie sayings, and one of my favorite movies is Braveheart. And I remember Uncle Argyle telling William Wallace, “First, I will teach you to use this. Then I’ll teach you to use this.” My fellow South Carolinians, use this by using this. And then the second thing I ask you to do, we are in uncertain times. We are in uncertain times. I’ve never heard of times like these. So I ask you to turn down the volume so we can listen to that still, small voice. Thank you.
Governor Henry McMaster: (14:09)
Thank you, Senator. Speaker Lucas.
Speaker Lucas: (14:17)
Thank you, Governor, for letting me speak at this very important press conference, and I want to thank all the members of the media for coming out and covering this today. When I thought about this issue, I wanted to think about it a little differently than others might have, so I wanted to go back and look at 1917 and 1918, and what happened during the influenza outbreak, and how schools dealt with that issue. So I went on the computer and I pulled up various articles, and depending on if it was a left leaning publication or a right leaning publication, they’d give you a different answer. If it was a left leaning publication, nobody went to school back in 1918, 1919. If it was a right-leaning publication, everybody went to school back-
Speaker Lucas: (15:03)
Even if it was a right-leaning publication, everybody went to school back in 1918 and 1919. So I learned pretty quickly that current articles weren’t going to be very helpful because children going back to school was being made into a political partisan issue and I can tell you that it’s not a political partisan issue. It’s a personal issue. And it’s a personal issue for all of us. On the way down this morning, I’ve got a number of members, number of people in my community, but members who are so engaged with this issue, who tell me that on one end, that their children aren’t learning virtually, they’re falling behind, but on the other end Speaker, I’ve got five children at home, I don’t like virtual schooling, but I don’t know if it’s safe to send my kids back. And I certainly understand that.
Speaker Lucas: (15:52)
I understand all of those concerns. When people ask me whether in person schooling is safe during the Coronavirus, I ask the same question each time that if Will my only son were of school age, would I let him go back this fall given the numbers that I saw yesterday? And the answer is I would certainly and there’s a reason for that. And it’s not that I’m Republican or Democrat. I’m a Republican but it’s based on my personal history. I always like to talk about my dad. My dad was the greatest person I ever knew. He came up poor, his mother and father, I don’t think had eight years of education between them. It was very hard on my dad while he was at home because my grandfather was always pushing him to leave school and go work in the textile mill.
Speaker Lucas: (16:53)
My uncle Jerry who the youngest always said it was hardest on dad because he was the oldest and they would push him the hardest to go. Well, he loved going to school. He loved going to Hartsville High School. So he went and he went every day and he stayed as long as he could because that school offered him such tremendous, tremendous support. His teachers who he still would talk about until he died, were so essential in his life. And I can only imagine if my dad’s schooling was cut short, that he would have ended up in the textile mill if he’d had to go through a pandemic and not be able to go to school. My dad’s story has a great ending. He finished high school. He did learn a whole lot. He went to Korea. He fought for two years. He went to college on the GI bill. He went to University of South Carolina and on August 11th, 1957, he got two things. He got a diploma and he got me on the same day, which I want to integrate my dad into a little bit of what I’m going to talk.
Speaker Lucas: (17:59)
But I’m not going to talk long but i also think about my son. When you talk about personal decision. I remember in second grade, his teacher calling me and him saying, “Something’s wrong with will. We don’t know what’s wrong with him, but something’s wrong with him.” So we took him to Joel Sussman, who was a great psychologist over in Columbia. And he worked with him and looked at him and we were thinking maybe he’s got Attention Deficit Disorder. He had something called [inaudible 00:03:27], which he had Attention Deficit Disorder, but he also had a motor function problem. He didn’t have any balance. He couldn’t ride a bicycle. He couldn’t have his fingers do that. So with the help of some really dedicated teachers who not only work with him during the day, but work with him all of his life after school tutoring, he graduated Hartsville High School, just like his granddad, just like his dad. He went on to get a degree in Mathematics and a master’s degree in Analytics. And we’re really proud of Will.
Speaker Lucas: (18:57)
But I come at this issue from those two stories. And when I think about disadvantaged students, I have to think about my dad who was severely disadvantaged and disadvantaged today is not having a computer and it’s not having access to the internet and that’s pretty tough. But back then, and also today, disadvantaged is loss of vital services, not having a meal. And I know my dad went to school a lot of times without any money and he’d [inaudible 00:04:27]money to get a meal. Loss of safe surroundings, but more importantly, loss of support. When our children don’t go to school, some of our most disadvantaged children lose that support. And that support is what keeps them in school. So I think from that standpoint, it’s critical to have the option to go back to school. I think about virtual learning and I think about it a lot. Figure’s been thrown away and we had 10,000 kids we couldn’t find. Out of 800,000 kids, I heard at a Senate hearing, President Peeler the other day, that we’ve had 80,000 kids who are habitual truants.
Speaker Lucas: (20:13)
And you look at the studies and they’re not a lot, but they say you will lose in truancy anywhere from an additional 21 to 30% of your students. And I’m telling you folks that is not an acceptable number. And I go back to my son who I gave you the example of earlier, Will. Will couldn’t have been a virtual student. There’s no way, as my mother and father worked, he didn’t have the coordination to do it, he sure didn’t have the attention to do it, but for sending him to school every day, he would not have been able to overcome his handicaps and his disabilities. And I think that’s so important and something that lose track of some time. I understand that returning to school is not a one size fits all package. There’ll have to be different solutions for every district, but every child needs the opportunity. I go out, I go to BI-LO, and now we go out to eat. We see those same children who are in our school system, who are courageously serving us and checking us out at the grocery store and I’m just amazed at their bravery.
Speaker Lucas: (21:33)
And I think to myself, we can be as courageous as they are. If they’re out there doing that for us, then we should have the courage in making every effort to get these children back to school. I’ll end by saying that, going back and looking at 1918 to 1919, I did find some actual historical evidence about interesting things that happened because of that pandemic and it’s just unbelievable. Woodrow Wilson called that the Children’s Year and in that year we got school nurses, we got school lunch programs, we got child labor laws. The kids who got sent home back then, they were in eighth grade. They didn’t get to go home and play Nintendo. They had to go to work. So we got child labor laws out of it, compulsory school attendance, improving tenement housing, we got larger cleaner schools with playgrounds.
Speaker Lucas: (22:38)
So the folks back then understood that when they went back, they had to do it differently. And we have to do it differently. And Chairman Hembree and Chairman Alison have worked so hard on our reform package that we’re trying to get through and we’re still trying to get through it. And you don’t ever want to see a bad thing like this happen but maybe this can be an impetus Chairman Alison, Senator Hembree, that we can get this school reform through. I hope so. Everybody has been saying, I got this letter from these teachers’ unions. I’ve been reading it in the paper that I got the letter and I just got it this morning in the mail. I’m old school, I actually go to the mailbox and get my stuff. I’ve read that and listen, they make certainly some wonderful points about safety.
Speaker Lucas: (23:33)
We must be creative again. We must think differently. We must make the necessary changes to prioritize safety for not only the children and for our teachers, but I can tell you that we are extremely fortunate in South Carolina in one regard. And I think the General Assembly, all the members of the General Assembly up here need to take credit for that. We have been a fiscally conservative state for a long time and when I was going through and researching this topic, just to see the number of teachers that have been furloughed and the number of cuts that had been made to public education, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a great financial picture in South Carolina, but through the hard work of the men and women up here, it’s much, much better than they are in other states and it gives us the ability along with the federal money to make school safe so we can give parents the option, because it’s not for everybody, but the option of having in school learning.
Speaker Lucas: (24:34)
Governor, thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be here Mr. President. It’s always an honor to speak with you. Thank you all so much for attending.
Speaker 2: (24:40)
Thank you. Senator Greg Hembree.
Speaker 3: (24:51)
Thank you Governor McMaster. I appreciate everyone who’s come for this press conference. A lot has already been said. I’m going to be fairly brief. I’ve got four quick points that I think are worth discussing with you. First off, the virtual learning experiment that we have been engaged in in the last semester of school last this past year, got an A plus for effort. There was a tremendous amount of work, dedication by administrators, by teachers, by the folks in the school system to literally turn on a dime and totally restructure their method of education in a very short period of time. We asked them to do a lot and they did do a lot. Unfortunately in result, that effort gets a D minus. It was a terrific effort, great amount of work went into it, but the results on the back end have been abysmal.
Speaker 3: (25:44)
We know this now, we’re seeing the statistics. The data is telling us that in Mathematics on average, students have lost not just that semester, but a complete year. And that in English, students have lost a complete semester. So we are starting out. Now, if you were in the third grade when you began the year last year and you are to be going into the fourth grade, in Mathematics on average, you’re at a third grade level. You’re starting from scratch. So it’s not worked. That’s the bottom line. It’s just not worked for many, many of our students.
Speaker 3: (26:21)
Second point. Other countries are reopening their schools very successfully and very safely. And this is all over the world, in Europe, in Asia, there’s a terrific article that was written by Michael Birnbaum in the Washington post that came out July the 11th, I would encourage you to… It’s worth reading and looking at as he goes through country by country, how those other countries have reopened, they’re back full time in school. Many of the countries have even abandoned social distancing in their schools and their cases are not increasing. They have avoided Coronavirus spikes in their schools. Now there are medical reasons for this. There are other reasons pediatricians can tell you about. I know that we have some other speakers that may be addressing those issues but the bottom line is this can be done. If they can do it in Korea and they can do it in Sweden, we can do it in South Carolina. They’re no smarter than we are. They’re no better than we are. They’re no more equipped than we are to carry out this important effort.
Speaker 3: (27:23)
Third point. Bottom line is parents deserve an option. Parents and taxpayers of South Carolina are spending nearly $15,000 on average, $15,000 per pupil, per year, to educate. That’s a very substantial investment by the parents and taxpayers in our school system. And right now they’re just not getting anything for it. So the investment’s going to continue to be made. I will assure you that just because it’s not working means that they cut the funding. The funding will still continue to go to the school districts. The question is, are we getting the results that we really should be demanding? It’s not just, do we, would we like to have them? It’s essential that we have them. And of course there are other choices. This is about a choice. It’s a parental choice. No one’s forced to do this. It will be hard for the districts to do this, I get it, it’s hard work. It will be hard to reopen. It will be new challenges in reopening. It’s going to be hard for the superintendents, hard for the administrators, hard for the teachers. It’s hard work. I get it.
Speaker 3: (28:37)
The adults will have to work harder to serve the children, which is their chosen profession and really their responsibility. And finally the fourth point, and this you can put it in the bank and Speaker Lucas told the story about this but this is how it’s going to go. The most vulnerable children, the most vulnerable children in South Carolina will suffer the greatest if we do not open. They’ll suffer the greatest from a health standpoint, they’ll suffer the greatest from a physical health standpoint, from a mental health standpoint, from an economic health standpoint, and from an educational health standpoint. They will suffer the greatest. The strong districts will be able if we don’t reopen, be able to turn it around faster, you can count on that. That happens every time. The weaker districts are going to slide even farther behind. So quite frankly, if our schools were terrific and at the top of the country, that’d be one thing.
Speaker 3: (29:41)
But we’re in the bottom fourth right now and it’s not like we’re doing as good as we want to be doing. So we truly cannot afford not to use all of our choices and all of our options in educating our students. So thank you for your kind attention.
Speaker 2: (29:56)
Thank you sir [inaudible 00:30:00], Senator [inaudible 00:30:00].
Katrina Shealy: (30:06)
Thank you, governor. We all know that children need to be back in school in front of teachers. We all know this. We’ve all been listening. That virtual schools work for some children, but they don’t work for all children. And if we’ve been listening, we all know that over 10,000 of South Carolina children have had no contact with their schools, our teachers, since March the 16th. Some districts and schools have done a great job, but not all have been able to keep up for many reasons. Some we’ve heard had been broadband. Some parents just haven’t been able to pick up the packets. It could have been for whatever excuse, but some people just haven’t been able to keep up.
Katrina Shealy: (31:02)
Now, this does not include … Now that 10,000 number, that’s a good number for kids that just haven’t … We haven’t, we don’t even know where they are. But there are other children that we might’ve found them, but they haven’t kept up with their education. So there’s 10,000. That’s the number that we don’t even know where they are, but there’s this other number that we don’t know … They haven’t had any education since March the 16th. So, that’s a whole different group of children.
Katrina Shealy: (31:34)
We also know that if we don’t offer in person learning this fall, that number is going to increase. It’s not going to get smaller. We’ve got that group of children, this other group of children, then we’re going to have a whole different group of children that are going to continue to fall behind. There’s no one in South Carolina that wants children to be in danger. Not one person. We don’t want to put children out there and put them in danger. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure children in South Carolina are safe.
Katrina Shealy: (32:09)
We’re going to take all the precautions. We’re going to clean the buses. We’re going to make sure we change air filters. We’re going to put up partitions. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure children are safe, but parents need an option. We need to give parents an option to send their children back to school. Children want that option. Teachers want that option. I’ve talked to teachers. I’ve talked to parents. I’ve talked to students. And they want to go back to school. They want to see their friends. They want that impersonal learning and we need to give them that opportunity. And if we don’t, we are failing the students of South Carolina.
Katrina Shealy: (32:48)
We can’t continue to lose students in the system. We know that there’s been over a 50% decrease in reports of abuse and neglect in the state of South Carolina. Now you would think a 50% decrease would be a great … That’s great. But that’s not a good thing, because teachers aren’t putting their eyes on students. And when teachers don’t put their eyes on students, what happens? Nobody’s talking about little Johnny who’s not getting nutrition at home, or maybe he’s getting abused at home. And so then what happens? Every night, he’s still getting abused at home. So since March 16th, it’s going over and over and over again. And we don’t even know where they are.
Katrina Shealy: (33:38)
And we say, “Oh, well, that’s just 1.3% of the students in South Carolina. That’s only 10,000 students. We got 700 and something thousand students.” Well that’s 10,000 children. That’s not a number. Those are children. Those are like your children, those are like my grandchildren, that’s like your nieces and nephews, that’s like your little neighbor across the street. If you haven’t seen them, maybe you ought to start worrying where they are. Those are kids that don’t have an education or they’re getting abused or neglected.
Katrina Shealy: (34:11)
It’s our responsibility as the leaders of this state to find out where they are. Number one, we need to know where they are. And number two is we need to make sure they get an education. That’s our responsibilities as the leaders of this state. And we’re not doing it if we don’t make sure they go back to school this year. And you’ve heard what the governor said. You heard what the president of the Senate said, you heard what the speaker said. You heard what Chairman Henry said. We can make it happen. The money’s out there. That money has been allocated to the superintendent. $216 million.
Katrina Shealy: (34:51)
I think only 86,000 of that money has been spent so far. We need to get that money in the districts and we need to make sure they spend that. And we need to make our schools say, “We can get the equipment to clean those buses. We can get the equipment to change those filters in those schools. We can make those schools safe for teachers and for students and for the workers that have to go in those schools. We can make it safe, but we’ve got to do it. And we’ve got to take care of our children. It’s our responsibility. And we’re going to do it.” Thank you, [inaudible 00:05:23].
Governor Henry McMaster: (35:23)
Thanks. Thank you, Senator. I should note that Katrina Shealy is the chair of the Family and Veterans Affairs Committee. And Greg Hambry is the chair of the Senate Committee on Education. Now the chair of the house education committee, Rita Allison.
Rita Allison: (35:46)
Thank you, governor. We’ve been here together now for probably a half an hour talking about all the challenges that we as, not leaders only of the state of South Carolina, but for all of those people out there who care about this state, care about their children, care about the teachers, the administrators, and all. The governor appointed an accelerate South Carolina and Molly Spearman, our superintendent, appointed an accelerate ad committee that worked long and hard on guidelines and certain specifications for going back to school.
Rita Allison: (36:29)
But now reality has set in. We are ready to go back to school. Students are blowing up our phones all the time talking about wanting to go back to school. I have three grandsons, 13 and 14, want to go back face to face. They did a lot of e-learning, and let me say, I’m proud to say they did well on e-learning, but I also have a nine year old and e-learning didn’t hit too well for him even though he had a great teacher who was online with him all the time. He wants to go back face to face.
Rita Allison: (37:07)
So, with all the challenges that we have before us today in education, we have some tremendous opportunities here, ladies and gentlemen. And those opportunities have been clearly pointed out to you by all of those who came before me to say that we take what we have learned from the professionals and that we put it into practice. And that practice would be that these students, these parents, these teachers, and these administrators can now give options and should give options to those in their districts.
Rita Allison: (37:48)
We have 79 districts out there. And let me say, they have been floundering to determine what their education system was going to look like. Even though they’ve been given great direction from accelerator entities that have been out there, but they’ve been floundering as to what to do, because parents at a baseball game, little league baseball game, are talking to teachers and saying, “I really don’t know whether I should send my child back, or if it’s e-learning first semester, can they pick up second semester in face to face?” Children with IEPs and with special needs need to be face to face. They learn best that way and they need to be there.
Rita Allison: (38:38)
So with all the challenges, there’s great opportunities out here. Let me talk about the opportunities. Representative Felder is here today and she’s chairing a committee in the house right now that has to do with looking at what we have broadband across the state. We’re behind in this state. We need to move forward in this state on broadband. How can a child have virtual if they don’t have connectivity or they don’t have the computer in front of them or the iPad? We need to have that yesterday in this state, and that is being worked on. And then when we have crises like this and children have to e-learn, they can be found and can e-learn.
Rita Allison: (39:23)
The second thing I want to point out is parents. Parents, we need you. Government cannot be all things to all people. You have got to step up to the plate. Some of your children have not been found, as Senator Shealy said earlier. They are out there floundering. We know that a good education brings quality to life and quality of life to all of us as South Carolinians. If you have a student that is not getting an education, we need you to support those students, to let them be found, to register them in school, and make sure that we can help through good teachers and good administrators and good principals to catch them up.
Rita Allison: (40:13)
A teacher going back this year may have three sets of students in her class. One, that didn’t show up since March, two, that was falling behind on e-learning, and three, a group of students that excelled and need to be pushed forward. That’s a challenge for any teacher, and we need to make sure that teachers have the development in whatever areas that they need on e-learning as well as face to face to have that ability to perform. We also need to make, and I’m thrilled that the governor has talked about the Department of Administration, moving forward with that money to make sure that every school district in this state has the safety, the PPE. Anything that they need to make sure that we are pushing forward in safety.
Rita Allison: (41:06)
We want our teachers to be safe. We want our students to be safe. Those are challenges, but they’re also opportunities for us to work together. And lastly, may I say that with connectivity, we need to move forward, as I said, as quickly as possible. There’s a lot of ideas out there, but the implementation of an idea is where your success is in education. And today, the governor and the leaders behind me have come to say, “We’re with you. We’re going to support you. We want to give you what you need, but we want you to move forward together so that we have success in education here in South Carolina.” So thank you, governor, for bringing us together.
Governor Henry McMaster: (41:54)
Thank you. Thank you, ma’am. As you’ve seen just from those that are gathered here to speak to you today, that we have many, many years, decades of experience, deep experience, in education. And I know that you noticed the passion and the passion is about the children. The passion is not about politics. The passion is about nothing other than our children. We have here to help answer questions if you have any, Thorton Kirby, the president of the hospital association, also Marshall Taylor, the acting director of [DHEC 00:42:31] and Dr. Brandon Traxler, also of [DHEC 00:12:34]. Do you have any questions?
Speaker 4: (42:36)
Governor Henry McMaster: (42:37)
Speaker 4: (42:38)
[crosstalk 00:42:38] superintendent is obviously not in attendance for this press conference today. Why isn’t she here to go over any of these recommendations with her and [crosstalk 00:12:45]?
Governor Henry McMaster: (42:45)
Yes ma’am. We went over all of them with her and she had had some questions and we discussed them thoroughly. She and others were invited to be here, but these are the ones that accepted the invitation to be here today. Yes, sir.
Speaker 5: (43:00)
Governor, the accelerate and task force clearly outline that any County experiencing a high rate of incident to operate under distance learning. Only one County in our state would be eligible for some sort of hybrid approach. Why make it a mandate now for district to do face to face learning for five days [crosstalk 00:13:18]?
Governor Henry McMaster: (43:19)
We’re not making it a mandate. And-
Speaker 5: (43:21)
Governor Henry McMaster: (43:22)
wait a minute. Hold on, hold on, hold on. We did not make it … We’re not making this a mandate. This is a decision that has been made by the legislature. It is in the law for the superintendent of education to implement, but also the guidelines from the CDC and DHEC our guidelines, and that is what these measurements were based on. They’re guidelines. Yes, sir.
Speaker 6: (43:45)
Governor, two questions from a teacher who reached out to us. First, why are we trying to reopen the numbers spiking? And two, what is the protocol when someone tests positive that may not be in that classroom setting, but elsewhere in the school?
Governor Henry McMaster: (43:58)
We’ll let Dr. Ttraxler answer that. Dr. Traxler, [inaudible 00:14:02].here.
Dr. Traxler: (43:59)
Thank you, governor. DHEC is working on guidance. We have some interim guidance available on our website for situations in which there are cases or contacts within a school. And we continue to develop that and to expound upon it, as more guidance comes out from the CDC and as we talk to more and more leaders and people in the schools throughout the state.
Speaker 6: (44:25)
Thank you. And governor, why the focus on reopening what our cases are spiking more than when we closed schools back in April?
Governor Henry McMaster: (44:34)
We know more about it now than we did then. We were doing then what we thought was best. We are doing now what we believe based on additional evidence that we believe is best. As I mentioned earlier, and others have mentioned, the American Academy of Pediatrics, which I think is 64,000 pediatricians, they’ve offered their insight into this. And the classroom is one of the safest places for children to be. So, we are doing things now that as we learn more, but it is important. We have to weigh-
Governor Henry McMaster: (45:03)
… that as we learn more, but it is important. We have to weigh a doubt against a certainty. It is for certain that if these children do not get back to school face-to-face with their teachers, they are going to fall behind, and some of them may never catch up. That is a certainty, and that’s what we’re measuring.
Speaker 7: (45:19)
Governor Henry McMaster: (45:19)
Speaker 7: (45:21)
Governor, you mentioned that you invited Superintendent Spearman and others to be here. What’s your reaction to the fact that she’s not here, and other district superintendents did not come to this today?
Governor Henry McMaster: (45:29)
I don’t know how many district superintendents we invited, but we invited a number of legislative leaders, and Miss Spearman, and we have room for more, but we are delighted that those who have had this deep experience, pertinent experience, are here with us today.
Governor Henry McMaster: (45:45)
Speaker 8: (45:46)
With so many teachers in South Carolina in that high risk category, are there going to be any alternatives for teachers?
Governor Henry McMaster: (45:54)
That is the kind of question that the district superintendents need to be answering in consultation with DHEC and with [Noone 00:46:00] what we know about the virus.
Governor Henry McMaster: (46:02)
Speaker 9: (46:03)
Governor, you don’t send kids to school in a hurricane. You close them. Why are we sending students back to school in a pandemic?
Governor Henry McMaster: (46:10)
Well, a hurricane doesn’t last that long, and they can do with two or three days out of school, but they cannot go for months and months on end without having face-to-face with a teacher. There is nothing more important in a child’s life other than their relationship with their parents than there is with that teacher.
Governor Henry McMaster: (46:26)
Yes, ma’am. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 10: (46:28)
[crosstalk 00:46:28] about school nurses-
Governor Henry McMaster: (46:29)
I beg your pardon.
Speaker 10: (46:32)
It was mentioned today about school nurses, but many schools across the state do not have a school nurse. Is there going to be anything as part of the legislature returns or is there any conversation about how to get more school nurses into the schools [crosstalk 00:46:45]-
Governor Henry McMaster: (46:45)
Yeah, there have been conversations and there will be nurses available in many of our schools. I believe most of them do have access, or have a nurse on duty, but we will see. Whatever is necessary to make it safe, to make it comfortable in that school will be provided.
Governor Henry McMaster: (47:01)
Speaker 11: (47:02)
Many parents and teachers who have reached out to us are scared because they are in those at-risk areas. I know what you’ve said about students likelihood kind of as severe if they got sick. What do you say to the teachers, bus drivers, nurses, parents at home who have medical conditions who could die or get seriously ill-
Governor Henry McMaster: (47:19)
Well, that’s to say these are the things we’ve been dealing with since this began, and we know those that are older, those that are underlying conditions, at-risk, and we have to take care of ourselves. We have plenty of guidance on how to do that.
Governor Henry McMaster: (47:32)
Speaker 12: (47:33)
Governor, [inaudible 00:47:35] South Carolina about almost every measure is kind of failed while trying to contain this virus. Why should people in the state trust that the state can do what needs to be done with their children and the teachers, half of them are 40 or older, safe from school-
Governor Henry McMaster: (47:47)
There’s no one in this country who has conquered this virus. As you know, the infection rates go up and down. The other rates that we watch, you see hospitalization rates, how many are in intensive care, the ventilators, the death rate. Those things, and the infection rates that are going up, up, and we’re testing a lot more as well, but the higher percentages that we see now … Those are just facts of life we have to deal with, but we can’t stop everything. We can’t stop progress and education and the economic of people working. We can’t shut down forever. We took a wise approach in our limiting the opening of businesses and we still have some restrictions in place. I wish we didn’t have to have any, but we have to have some, particularly when people are in big crowds together in places like bars, and places which we’ve addressed.
Governor Henry McMaster: (48:39)
But we cannot shut down. Our state cannot shut down our economy, and we cannot shut down our education system indefinitely. We know that this shutdown is hurting these children, and we cannot let that happen. When we have it as our means, as has been discussed here by Senator Hembree and others, to take great care and see that that does not happen.
Governor Henry McMaster: (48:58)
Speaker 13: (48:58)
Governor, given that one of the main ways to actually make this feasible is if we had widespread mask use, wouldn’t it be at least to have some kind of fierce guidelines for the counties and cities that want to have a mask mandate?
Governor Henry McMaster: (49:14)
There are ample guidelines for counties and cities who want to have masks. As Senator President [Peale 00:49:19] demonstrated a few minuets ago, and all of us are wearing masks, everyone should wear masks. Those circumstances we talked about were right on, but we cannot force people to do what they don’t want to do.
Governor Henry McMaster: (49:32)
At the state level, we’ve got 350 sled agents to enforce the law. They’ve got five million people in South Carolina. You also have 271 cities and towns, each with some sort of police force or county police force. A local ordinance by a local town that knows their local people and their local businesses and the local dangers. That’s where that enforcement and that’s where that effort ought to be, but the mask we know is one way of several to reduce the spread of the virus, and people ought to wear them.
Governor Henry McMaster: (50:01)
Speaker 14: (50:02)
I think you said earlier that you’re not going to distribute any more on this-
Governor Henry McMaster: (50:06)
Well, that’s because the legislature has passed a law. I cannot change the law with an executive order.
Speaker 14: (50:12)
So this is entirely an experiment in [crosstalk 00:50:15]-
Governor Henry McMaster: (50:15)
That’s right. That’s right. Well, now, the legislature will be back in September.
Governor Henry McMaster: (50:21)
If things have not gone as satisfactorily according to the legislature, I’m confident that they’ll have the opportunity to make considerations if something further needs to be done.
Governor Henry McMaster: (50:30)
Speaker 15: (50:31)
For the students that do choose online learning, will meals still be provided, and is there money set aside for those communities?
Governor Henry McMaster: (50:37)
That is correct. There is money available for online learning, for distance learning, for virtual learning. What we want is the schools to plan to open to all the parents who want their children to be there. To open. We expect that there will be a number, perhaps a large number, of parents who will choose virtual learning for their children for a variety of reasons. That’s their choice. We believe that that, in itself, will reduce the concentration of a lot of children in the schools, and make it easier for the implementation of the rules to keep everyone safe.
Governor Henry McMaster: (51:14)
Speaker 16: (51:15)
Governor, it’s no secret recently, teachers and the general assembly have had a tenuous relationship. They’re already at a shortage. They already feel like they’re underpaid and underappreciated. And now you’re asking them to at least have the option to go back in a dangerous pandemic. What’s your response to teachers who are scared about their health and also their [crosstalk 00:51:34]-
Governor Henry McMaster: (51:34)
I think everyone is scared about their health. That’s why about everyone else’s health. That’s why we’re all wearing masks. That’s why we’re standing here distancing. We’re all in the same boat. There is no special group. The only ones that are really in a special group are the elderly and those with those conditions, and a lot of people in the poorer parts of our state, and we have concentrated on that. We understand that, and that’s why we’re doing the things that we’re doing in nursing homes and otherwise.
Governor Henry McMaster: (52:01)
Speaker 17: (52:01)
Governor, you gave that after Labor Day recommendation, and I’m wondering if you all expect by that date that cases are going to be going down, or is there some reason why after Labor Day rather than …
Governor Henry McMaster: (52:15)
Well, one reason is the day after Labor Day, that’s the last day under the law, that’s the last day by which the schools must open. But there’s a lot of planning that goes on with what we’ve been discussing today. There are a lot of things that need to be done, a lot of assets that need to be accessed, including the money of the $216 million that has been made available to the Department of Education directly in the Cares Act. There is much more to be done in many of our districts. They need some time. We’re not requiring that, but we’re suggesting that that would be a good date.
Speaker 17: (52:50)
And I have a question on that money. There’s been some confusion from school districts and teachers groups about whether that money is only going towards school districts if they do in-person instruction. Would it also provide, too, if they do a hybrid virtual than in-person?
Governor Henry McMaster: (53:05)
It is for a response to the COVID-19.
Speaker 17: (53:10)
So they could do either.
Governor Henry McMaster: (53:12)
Governor Henry McMaster: (53:13)
Speaker 18: (53:14)
Hey, Governor, what about the school districts that already submitted their plans? Some are opting to do the hybrid. Is this going to completely just eliminate that [crosstalk 00:53:22]-
Governor Henry McMaster: (53:24)
Well, what we are asking the superintendent to do is to be sure that included in any district’s plan is an option for the parents for a five day, face-to-face days in school. Five days every week. The teachers will be back every day. We know that. The teachers will be in place every day. There’s no plan by anyone for the teachers not to be in the schools. We want to have as many children as possible in those schools with them, face-to-face education, and that will be a choice of the parents.
Speaker 18: (53:55)
Governor Henry McMaster: (53:55)
Yes, sir. One more.
Governor Henry McMaster: (53:57)
Chip. Chip … Chip McKinney. Chip?
Chip McKinney: (54:02)
Governor, [inaudible 00:54:02] publicly closing bars and stopping-
Governor Henry McMaster: (54:05)
No, sir. No, sir. What we put in place was an 11:00 rule, that at 11:00, the bars and restaurants would discontinue the service and the consumption of alcohol on the premises. And we think that’s a measured, targeted rule, and that’s the one that we’re going to stick with.
Governor Henry McMaster: (54:26)
That’s the end of the questions. Thank you very much. We’ll do off topic in a moment.