By PAT RAIA,
Gov. Ron DeSantis is backing parents as some school boards around the state are requiring that students in grades K-12 wear masks when they return to in-person learning this year. Here in Hernando County, masks will not be mandatory when kids return to their classrooms this year.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued its updated guidance for the wearing of masks at the nation’s schools.
“Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status,” the agency said in a written statement. “Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.”
In response, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would not require children returning to in-person learning to wear masks to school.
“Obviously, parents can equip their kids to go to school the way they want, but there will be no mandate,” he said. “Kids need to be kids – they need to breathe.”
On July 30, DeSantis issued an executive order that directs the Florida Departments of Health and of Education to work together to ensure safety protocols for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in schools that “do not violate parent’s rights right under Florida law to make health care decisions for their minor children.”
Here in Hernando County, masks are optional for school children in Grades K-12 and for members of school staff when in-person learning begins on Aug. 10, according to Back-to-School Health and Wellness information posted on the Hernando School District website and can be read on page 5 of this week’s Hernando Sun.
Even so, parents may require that their own children wear masks to in-person classes.
“It’s a matter of ‘my child, my choice,’ ” said Commissioner Elizabeth Narverud, the liaison between Hernando County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and the Hernando School District. “I personally believe that kids learn so much from (others’) facial expressions such as ‘this is good, this is bad,’ or ‘I’m happy or I’m sad.’”
When students do wear them, face coverings must meet school dress codes, the School District website said.
Meanwhile, the Hernando School District is following the CDC recommendation that whenever feasible schools create a 3-foot “buffer” between students in order to reduce the potential for disease transmission.
Finally, COVID-19 vaccination is not required in order for students to attend in-person classes in Hernando County Schools, the School District Website said.
Even so, a protocol is in place if a student does get sick with COVID-19, Narverud said.
“The Health Department has records of all people who have been vaccinated, and if a (student) comes down with COVID, children within a 3-6 foot radius who have not been vaccinated will be required to be quarantined for 10 days,” she said.
If after five days a quarantined child shows no symptoms of COVID-19, chooses to be tested and has a negative test result, that child can go back to school on day six.
“I don’t know if this will encourage more parents to get their kids vaccinated,” said Narverud. “Of course, if parents are fearful about (in-person learning) they may still use the E-school option.”
More back-to-school COVID-19-related information from the Hernando School District is available at https://www.hernandoschools.org/students-families/back-to-school-resources