Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is telling school districts that currently have mask mandates to make what national health leaders consider protection, voluntary when the school year begins come fall.
Corcoran said after a thorough review, the data shows districts’ face-covering policies do not impact the spread of the virus.
“Upon reviewing the policies of those districts with mandatory face covering policies, reviewing all districts relevant health data, and factoring in such data points as the percentage of students learning in-person and the relative population of a county (which is often synonymous with a county’s community health resources), the data shows us that districts’ face covering policies do not impact the spread of the virus,” he wrote in his letter Florida’s superintendents.
In his letter to superintendents across the state, Corcoran said face coverings are a personal decision and families should have the option to make the choice that works best for them.
Corcoran is telling superintendents that one-size-fits-all policies like this do not meet the unique needs of students and families.
Corcoran said after looking at policies of districts with face-covering mandates, all districts health data, and in-person learning versus county population, the Florida Department of Education does not feel masks are necessary.
He also said face-covering policies inhibit peer-to-peer learning.
In the letter to superintendents, Corcoran said “such policies may also impede instruction in certain cases, especially for students with disabilities and English-language learners who benefit from viewing a teacher’s face and mouth.”
The CDC stated coronavirus transmission in schools is low due to safety measures like mask-wearing.
Last month, the CDC reduced its social distancing guidelines in certain school settings from 6 feet to 3 feet as long as masks are universally used.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that decision is supported by the science and would help President Joe Biden‘s administration get to its goal of opening up more schools for in-person learning.
The Board of Education’s mask directive comes as some school districts have already decided to do away with e-learning in the fall, such as Pasco County.
In those counties, students will either have to enter the Florida virtual program or come back to brick-and-mortars.
Major school districts in Florida — such as Hillsborough, Orange, Seminole, Miami-Dade counties — are all still undecided on whether they will continue e-learning for students in the fall.