After speaking with local medical advisers and board members, noting the significant reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases in Orange County and hearing Mayor Jerry Demings announce the end of his local emergency order, Superintendent Barbara Jenkins determined not to extend the face mask mandate for students into November. Orange County Public Schools returned to required face masks with a parental opt-out provision on November 1st with no reported issues in schools this week. Parents or guardians can opt their child out of wearing a face mask based on a signed note delivered to the school.
Employees, visitors and volunteers will still be required to wear a face mask until further notice. OCPS is projecting making face masks optional for employees and other adults after December 3rd or sooner based on the data.
According to the 2021-2022 OCPS COVID-19 dashboard, there have been a total of 7,772 confirmed cases, with students totaling 6,531 reported confirmed cases. The dashboard reports 269 identified for quarantine, only 2 being employees.
Prior to the OCPS change, the state of Florida stated the Orange County School Board’s face mask policy did not comply with the emergency rule requiring public schools to allow for a parent or legal guardian to opt the student out of wearing a mask. Last month, Superintendent Jenkins defended her mask mandate as legal, necessary and reasonable.
The face mask mandate for all OCPS buildings and buses expired on October 30th. The district said it hopes parents will seriously consider the opportunity, when available, to vaccinate their children in consultation with their medical providers.
It was good timing too, because a judge sided with Governor Ron DeSantis in a case brought by Orange County and five other districts. The judge ruled the Governor can ban face mask mandates in public schools. “6 school boards sued to challenge the rule. DISMISSED!” tweeted Christina Pushaw, Gov. DeSantis’ press secretary. “First ruling on legal merits of our rule. And we won!”