Orange County Public Schools continues to strongly urge all parents to consider having their children wear face masks indoors when the new school year begins, but Superintendent Barbara Jenkins is now mandating masks for all OCPS employees and visitors while indoors for 30 days. The indoor mask mandate will begin August 6th and a determination to end or extend the requirement will be made prior to the end of the 30-day period.
The Superintendent admitted it is both an “exciting time” but also an “extremely stressful time” for the 209,000 Orlando students who are due to return to OCPS for another school year. The first day of school for students is Tuesday, August 10th.
The Orange County School Board voted to give authority to Superintendent Jenkins when they decided to make face coverings optional next school year, per direction from Governor Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran who pushed all school districts to update their policies accordingly. School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs has been one of the most vocal advocates for having children wear face masks next year until the pandemic is more under control locally, despite what Gov. DeSantis wants in schools, and that debate is not over ahead of the school year.
“We continue to strongly encourage parents to consider using face masks for their children while inside our schools. Under the delegated authority granted to me in the School Board Disease Prevention—Face Coverings policy, I am making face masks mandatory for all OCPS employees while inside our facilities or vehicles and in the presence of another individual. This mandate is effective Friday, August 6 and for the next 30 days,” Superintendent Jenkins said in a Community Update. “All visitors entering buildings, including volunteers, vendors, parents and guardians will also be required to wear a mask. This extra layer of mitigation will provide some protection to employees and students as we continue to monitor community trends in consultation with medical experts.”
OCPS outlined other COVID-19 mitigation strategies, which include:
- direction to stay home when not feeling well
- frequent cleaning and disinfecting facilities
- regular hand washing/sanitizing
- social distancing when feasible
- access to free testing for the virus (OCFL.net)
- strongly encouraging voluntary face masks for students
- encouraging vaccine consideration in consultation with health care providers
OCPS will also provide hand sanitizer on buses, windows and roof vents will remain open, and school officials are asking parents to consider transporting their children in order to decrease crowding on buses. There’s also an added incentive for OCPS employees to get vaccinated.
“I also want to strongly encourage staff and parents of eligible students to consider the vaccine in consultation with your health advisor,” Superintendent Jenkins said. “As previously announced, through the OCPS wellness program, we are offering $200 to any employee who has received full dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is for all OCPS employees regardless of when the shots were received. We will announce the simple process through the wellness portal shortly.”