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More South Carolina districts head back to school this week

August 1, 2021 GMT

FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — Students in five more school districts in South Carolina are starting back at school this week.

Students in Florence Districts 1 and 4 return Monday. Pickens County students return Tuesday. Oconee County schools are back Wednesday. And the Kershaw County School District opens its doors Thursday.

By the end of the week, more than 10% of South Carolina’s 77 districts will have started their school years. All three districts in Greenwood County and McCormick County schools returned last month.

Officials have mostly removed Plexiglass dividers from the last school year. They also expect most students to come back in person after the 2020-21 school year saw massive disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

School leaders have said students and teachers are welcome to wear masks, but they can’t mandate them even with another spike in COVID-19 cases. They also can’t require vaccines for students who are eligible for the shots.

The South Carolina General Assembly put a rule in this year’s state budget prohibiting districts from requiring masks. It passed in June before this latest spike in cases started.