The Orange County School Board voted 6 to 1 to make face coverings or masks optional for the 2021-22 school year. The policy changes take effect on school campuses including buses August 2nd and immediately at all non-school facilities. Each student, employee, visitor, vendor, or other person may voluntarily wear a face covering at their discretion. But is the OCPS face mask issue really decided for next year?
School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs was clear in her remarks that the face mask issue for OCPS is not fully decided. So for Orlando area parents, check out Chair Jacobs’ comments and be aware the decision could change over the next few weeks. District 6 Board Member Karen Castor-Dentel was the only one to vote against the new policy.
The School Board followed guidance from the Governor, who said clearly there would be no mask mandates in Florida schools next year. Governor Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran pushed all school districts to update their policies accordingly. The revised OCPS policy cites the guidance from Education Commissioner Corcoran and Florida’s Surgeon General Scott Rivkees and states the district’s desire to rely upon their guidance for the purposes of the newly enacted Section 768.38 immunity from liability for COVID-19 claims.
But the Orange County policy update leaves the issue of face masks open depending on future CDC or other updated governmental guidance. “In the event the CDC or other governmental entities issues updated guidance which mandates more restrictive face covering requirements, the School Board authorizes the Superintendent to implement the more restrictive face covering requirements in accordance with that guidance.”
School Board Chair Jacobs discussed the matter at length to justify her vote to make masks optional this week, while fully reserving the right to change her decision at any time from optional to mandatory. She also questioned Superintendent Barbara Jenkins about the ability to change the face mask policy in the future.
Check out the updated Policy EBBA here.