Orange County Public Schools mandates masks for students
Image via AP.

All students will be required to wear masks unless parents opt them out.

Orange County Public Schools will require all students to wear masks unless a parent sends a signed note requesting that a child be opted out of the policy.

The new policy was announced to parents, teachers, and other school staff by texts Friday from Orange County Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins.

The policy makes Orange County at least Florida’s fourth school district to buck Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order that school districts not require students to wear masks.

It is an expansion of an order Jenkins issued last week that all teachers and other adults in schools must wear masks.

“Out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our students and employees, and after consultation with our health experts and school board members, I am implementing required face masks for all students unless the parent chooses to opt out of the requirement,” Jenkins said in a memo.

Brevard, Alachua, and Duval counties also have implemented various student mask policies that bely DeSantis’ statewide order against them. DeSantis’ order also is being challenged in court.

Jenkins said her order would be in effect for 30 days. School starts Tuesday for most Orange County students.

DeSantis has threatened to withhold funding to school districts that mandate masks.

And on Friday, the State Board of Education released a proposed emergency rule that would allow public school students facing mask mandates to get school vouchers to transfer schools.

The rule includes a definition for “COVID-19 harassment,” targeted conduct against students stemming from a school district’s COVID-19 protocols. The list of prohibited protocols include mask requirements, separating or isolating students or providing COVID-19 testing requirements.

Orange County has been hit hard by the summer surge of COVID-19, due largely to the delta variant attacking unvaccinated people. In the week through Aug. 5, 8,822 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Orange County, up from 7,913 the week before, 5,356 the week before that, and 3,684 the week before that.

Last week more than 20% of the COVID-19 tests came back positive for the disease.

The county’s largest hospital systems have said they are filling with COVID-19 patients, including young patients, and have gone to emergency measures to make room.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].

One comment

  • Andrew Finn

    August 6, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    Great !!!! Now we have four counties with the guts and brains to challenge Emperor DeSantis’ mask edict. Let’s get more of the same from a lot more counties. It is also being challenged in court. It has been already advised that “the state” (and the Emperor) would probably lose a court fight on this and it will be fabulous to see the look on The Emperor’s face when they do.

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