HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL. – Hillsborough County School board members and superintendent Addison G. Davis heard from parents on both sides of the mask debate during a special school board meeting that was called on Wednesday.
8,400 Hillsborough students are now quarantined or isolated for COVID-19, according to the school district.
With 23,596 employees throughout Hillsborough schools, 307 of those employees are currently quarantined or isolated, according to the district.
After two hours of debate during the special session Wednesday, the board voted 5 to 2, with Melissa Snively and Dr. Stacy Hahn dissenting, to implement the mandatory mask policy.
“I have no interest here today in breaking the law,” said board member Melissa Snively, District 4.
All students will be required to wear masks and a doctor’s note will be required to opt out.
Medical opt-outs from last school year would roll over and be valid this year, Superintendent Addison Davis said.
The rule starts immediately, taking effect Thursday, and will remain in place for 30 days.
“I know that children want to be in school,” Nadia T. Combs from District 1, said before the vote. “If it requires children to wear masks for 30 days so we can go past this peak, that is what I’m asking for.”
“If we’re just asking for a 30-day protective measure, isn’t that the least that we can do for our children?” School Board Chair Lynn GrayGray added. “If it saves one life, 10 hospitalizations, isn’t that the least we can do?”
When asked if a 30-day mask mandate would save lives in the schools, infectious disease specialist Dr. Douglas A. Holt was unable to provide a definitive answer, “I believe it will reduce infections in the school,” Holt said. But added that it may not reduce infection in the community at large.
What this new mandate means in Tallahassee is yet to be seen.
On Tuesday, Florida’s education chief says he wants to punish Broward County Public Schools for not following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order that calls for masking to be optional.
Richard Corcoran is calling for sanctions on school districts that mandate masks but hasn’t yet said what kind.
In a letter Corcoran sent to Broward schools on Tuesday, he wrote that “I find there is probable cause that the School Board of Broward County and the district’s superintendent, Vickie Cartwright, acted contrary to the law.”
Last week, Corcoran threatened to withhold salaries of superintendents and school board members.
In July, Governor DeSantis announced that he will issue an executive order directing the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) to enter rulemaking in collaboration with the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) to protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks.
“The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children.”
“Today’s action is in response to several Florida school boards considering or implementing mask mandates in their schools after the Biden Administration issued unscientific and inconsistent recommendations that school-aged children wear masks,” said DeSantis’ office in a July statement.
Android Users, Click Here To Download The Free Press App And Never Miss A Story. It’s Free And Coming To Apple Users Soon