‘It’s time to make a change:’ Leon County Schools dropping opt-out for masks after surge in cases

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna announced a stricter mask policy after a surge...
Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna announced a stricter mask policy after a surge in cases.(WCTV)
Published: Aug. 22, 2021 at 1:16 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Just over a week into the school year, Leon County Schools is reversing its mask policy, requiring all students K-8 to mask up.

A medical exemption will be allowed, but the previous opt-out option is gone.

Superintendent Rocky Hanna made the announcement in a Facebook Live Sunday afternoon, citing a surge in cases inside the classroom.

According to Hanna, seven days in the classroom resulted in 245 positive COVID-19 cases. He said that represented 1/3 of all cases from last school year.

On Friday, the district had 900 students in quarantine, according to Hanna.

“It’s time to make a change,” he said in the announcement. “The goal is to keep our schools open.”

But Hanna speculated they might have to make changes should trends continue.

Hanna also acknowledged the move goes against the executive order issued by Gov. DeSantis and rules outlined by the Florida Department of Health.

Hanna said he wants to follow laws, but the health and safety of his students and staff are a higher priority.

The stricter mask requirement is temporary, he said.

Leon County becomes at least the seventh school district in the state to defy orders from Gov. DeSantis.

DeSantis spokesperson Cristina Pushaw responded to a request for comment from WCTV.

“It is disappointing that Leon Schools would violate Florida law by reversing its mask policy, which had previously protected parents’ rights and complied with state law by offering an opt-out provision,” she wrote.

“Governor DeSantis stands for parents’ rights, makes data-driven decisions, and follows the science.”

This is a developing story. Stay with WCTV for the latest.

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