Mask mandate discussion

Rock Crusher Elementary School students walk into school at start of the 2020-21 school year with a mask mandate in place. For families who wish to have their student wear a mask, school district spokeswoman Lindsay Blair said, “We have masks readily available on every school campus and every school bus.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order July 30 banning Florida school districts from issuing mask mandates.

So far, 10 counties are opposing the executive order, while Citrus County continues to make masks optional for students.

However, COVID-19 cases are rising across the state. The Citrus County School District has 444 recorded cases among staff and students between Aug. 10 and 24.

Get more from the Citrus County Chronicle

Local residents continue to debate: To mask, or not to mask?

Citrus County School Board chair Linda Powers said the board is always open to the sharing of information, even among those who disagree.

“That gives us a chance to talk,” she said.

Linda Powers

Linda Powers

What is the district currently doing to stop the spread?

“Mrs. Himmel (Superintendent Sandra “Sam” Himmel) and the School Board continue to monitor COVID numbers daily and are in constant contact with local health officials,” Citrus County School District spokeswoman Lindsay Blair said.

For families who wish to have their student wear a mask, Blair said, “We have masks readily available on every school campus and every school bus.”

“We are actively working as a district with the DOH with contact tracing,” Citrus County School Board member Thomas Kennedy said. He said educators are assisting with contact tracing as best they can as the district attempts to gather the most accurate information possible.

Thomas Kennedy

Thomas Kennedy

Will the district impose a mask mandate?

Citrus County School Board members agree that another mask mandate is not likely, especially considering the governor’s order.

In the order, DeSantis cites the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” a new law which states parents have the right to make medical and educational decisions for their children.

“There is a law in place,” Citrus County School Board member Doug Dodd said.

Doug Dodd mug

Doug Dodd, school board chairman

Kennedy said imposing masks would mean going against the government ruling.

“I do not see that happening,” he added.

“We follow the laws,” Powers said. “We’re not elected to make our own.”

What’s the plan to stop the spread?

“Our kids are getting sick, they’re being sent to school sick, they’re getting other kids sick,” Citrus County School Board member Sandy Counts said.

Even if the schools did impose masks, Counts said she doesn’t believe the masks work alone. Counts wants to focus on other protocols like social distancing, one way hallways and contact tracing.

Citrus County School Board member Ginger Bryant said schools will continue social distancing the best they can.

“Hopefully that will work,” she added.

Counts also said two weeks of COVID-19 data is not enough to make any rash decisions.

“We need to get the numbers from Tito (DOH-Citrus administrator Tito Rubio),” Counts said. She wants to know if kids are catching COVID-19 at school or elsewhere.

Sandy Counts MUG (File)

Sandy Counts

Dodd said he is aware and concerned about the rising numbers and plans to initiate a conversation with Himmel.

“I’m continuing to consider options,” he said. He also plans to review quarantine protocol with the superintendent.

In other news …

A group of parents across the state are suing DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Board of Education.

The parents are alleging the governor’s order violates a section of the Constitution that requires public schools to provide a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system.”

Closing arguments were made Thursday, Aug. 26, and a ruling is expected by 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 27. Both parties are prepared to appeal.

“I’m sure our administration is watching,” Bryant said.

Ginger Bryant

Ginger Bryant

“There’s certainly a lot of attention on the case,” Kennedy said. “What happens to those board members who have not followed the rule?”

To continue follow the district's COVID-19 cases, visit citrusschools.org/home.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this story.

Hannah Sachewicz is a reporter for the Chronicle. She can be reached at 352-564-2929 or hannah.sachewicz@chronicleonline.com.

(8) comments

lancel44

Citrus school board is putting children's lives at risk. The governor's order is more political then scientific. He's trying to appeal to trump voters who seem to be against masks. However, in alabama at a trump rally, even trump was booed for asking people to wear mask. Now scott, rubio and ballart are pressuring desantis to reverse his stance no mask mandate as covid deaths are at an all time high and so are infections in florida. Parents and politicians shouldn't be making health decisions. Ultimately. someone has to be held accountable for sickness and deaths in this state.

KYBLUE

You're exactly right. Mask mandates and the wearing of masks is political. That being said.. The science doesn't support mask wearing. A child has a better chance of dying by a lightning strike then covid. And if you're an adult who is truly in fear of it, get vaccinated. I always said "if you want to catch covid, drive around in your car with a mask, face-shield and gloves on. Half-joking aside.... Striping the rights of parents away (like everything else) will be just the start. What's next? CRT? Crazy Pronoun junk? Thank God that folks are starting to stand up to this non-sense. If this is where the Dems intend to lead us... Count me out! Oh yow, two more things: the Open Boarder and moronic Afghanistan pullout. I'm not going to listen to these socialists.

chsaw

Um, yeah. Like Trump wasn't already going to pull the troops from Afghanistan! His plan was to be out May 1, 2021. It's crazy how the blame is all on Joe Biden now when the plans have been on the table for a long time. And going a bit further on 'crazy train' is that the twice impeached president that all of the blindly led republicans pick to "worship" had covid (he didn't like to cover his nasty mug with a mask either). Then... During his administration the vaccine was developed, he took the vaccine himself. The people DeSantis / Trump talk so badly of, the smart people, the scientists and doctors who developed the vaccine say that the masks help to stop the spread of the disease. Lets see who to follow... the "rich" reality tv star um...I mean former president and his minions or the scientists and doctors who have devoted their lives to learning about and finding cures and preventing diseases / pandemics. As for "CRT" and "the crazy pronouns" why do you care? I'm guessing a person who values "rights" (as a follower would call them) about masks to stop a pandemic from spreading... you can also pick and choose to use pronouns or not or talk about Critical Race Theory, or not. I know some people still like to pretend that racism does not exist and never did. You seem to be feeling like you have to defend the currently sinking , mostly crazy, republican party while adding in a splash of racism and transphobia. Most of these types of rants always seem to blame the dems, why not place the blame where it should lie? In The Donald's lap. He lost. He's never going to hold the office again. The republican party is going down in flames. Hopefully the Mother Ship will be along soon to get some of you away from all the socialists, the ICU beds are getting full, some with kids, on ventilators because of Covid. Those of us who aren't following the crazies have rights too, seems like the republicans are just mad they lost now they need to throw the "rights" things around ... schools are crowded places, germs spread quick and it's nuts to want kids to wear a mask but if one word of CRT was spoken there probably be a lot of virtual students again? Hmm.

AllLivesMatter

Joe Biden is 100 percent culpable for the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. He has blood on his hands.. Biden will be known as the Kabul Butcher..

RogerO

We need to see an increase in vaccines in the 12 to 17 age group. Would offering kids (or their parents) $50 to get a vaccine help?

NancyTomaselli

The science is clear. The CDC has stated that mask are necessary to prevent Delta transmission. Masks protect, no masks infect. Do you want to gamble your child's life on the governor's personal politics or on what science says will save your child's life? The School Board and the Department of Health Administrator must have the courage to stand up to the governor and his Machiavellian law for the sake of saving children's lives.

MikeBond

[thumbup][thumbup]

AllLivesMatter

Masks are harmful to young children.. they must be optional not forced on the children and others...

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