Leon County School Board to discuss newly reinstated mask mandate

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 3:00 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Leon County School Board members are expected to discuss the district’s newly reinstated mask mandate at an afternoon meeting.

On Sunday, Superintendent Rocky Hanna cited nearly 250 COVID cases and more than 900 students in quarantine in re-instating a mask mandate — and dropping a parental opt-out — for students in grades K-8. The only exceptions would be for students with a note from a doctor or licensed psychologist. That’s the same policy Hanna originally proposed before the start of school.

“I agree with the superintendent’s decision, but I am disappointed that we are not going all the way to the 12th grade,” Leon County School Board member Daryl Jones said. “We should not put on the brakes, we should put on the gas and ensure that any child who comes to our schools and any faculty that teaches in our schools should have an equal measure of protection.”

“Anything we can do to preserve the safety of our students, I still believe that is what we need to do and I do not shrink from that responsibility,” Leon County School Board Chair Joy Bowen said. “I just think that our children need to have a safe learning environment and our schools need to be open for them to learn.  That is what the majority of parents are telling me.”

Hanna backed off the district’s original mask mandate — and allowed parents to opt-out of mask-wearing — after a heated school board meeting on August 10, the night before classes began.

The discussion and decision come after the district received a strongly worded letter from Florida’s Education Commissioner accusing the district of violating the Governor’s Executive Order and breaking the law by failing to give parents a choice.

“I still have significant reservations about the Superintendent’s decision to re-instate a mask mandate for all students K-8,” School Board member DeeDee Rasmussen said. “Unless or until the courts rule on this, or the Governor or Education Commissioner modifies their position, we are compelled to comply with the law we took an oath to uphold.”

There are now at least six school districts in Florida moving forward with mask mandates despite the Governor’s executive order.

At least two have received ultimatums indicating the district will lose funding equivalent to the monthly salaries of their school board members if they do not comply.

“I don’t want to break the law. We’re not supposed to break the law and we said that we wouldn’t,” Leon County School Board member Roseann Wood said. “But at some point,  there’s a moral and ethical obligation to do what’s right to protect children and teachers and staff. We are doing our jobs the best we know how.”

The board is expected to discuss the newly reinstated mask mandate at its agenda review Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. The Leon County School Board’s regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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