Florida Education Commissioner: Masks should be voluntary in schools

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 9:57 AM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE Fla. (WCJB) - Masks could be a thing of the past for students in north central Florida in the upcoming school year. Florida’s Department of Education Commissioner is asking school districts to revise their face mask policies for the 2021-2022 school year.

Richard Corcoran wrote a letter to the districts saying that mandatory faces masks is a one-size-fits-all policy and that it inhibits peer-to-peer learning and does not fit every family’s needs.

“Face coverings are a personal decision and certainly families and individuals should maintain their ability to make a decision that is unique to their circumstances,” he wrote.

According to Corcoran, data shows that school’s face mask policies have no impact in the virus’ community spread and these policies serve “no remaining good a this point.”

RELATED STORY: Alachua County Public Schools will offer free COVID-19 vaccines to eligible students

The commissioner argues that the face mask policy harms in-person learning, especially for students with disabilities and students that are learning the English language.

“We ask that districts, which currently are implementing a mandated face covering policy, revise their policy to be voluntary for the 2021-20221 year,” he wrote in the letter. “Florida’s districts and schools have done an incredible job implementing, learning and improving upon mitigations and protections for our students, educators, school leaders and Florida’s entire education family.”

But in two north central Florida’s biggest county’s there’s still much to consider.

District officials in Alachua County said they’ll review different cases, positivity rates, vaccination rates, and eligibility before making a decision.

“As we get closer to the school year we will be working with our medical advisors. Those are the folks that have been helping us since the beginning of the pandemic to keep our students, families and staff safe,” ACPS Director of Communications, Jackie Johnson said.

For both districts, students will still be required to wear masks, at least until the end of this school year.

“At this time and until the school board makes a decision on it, the mask policy that we have in place is school board policy so we are continuing to wear face masks when social distancing isn’t possible,” MCPS Public Relations Officer, Gregory Davis said.

Here is a copy of the full letter:

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