More than 10,000 parents in Lee County opted their students out of the district’s mask requirement. But that means eight of nine students attending their first day of school will still mask up.
The Lee County School District told Florida Politics that as of the start of the school day Tuesday, a total of 10,664 opt-out forms had been turned in. There could still be more submitted, as the district just started the new school year Tuesday. Officials only announced a masking policy on Sunday and did not release an opt-out form until Monday, when it was sent to parents via email.
The total represents just under 12% of the 89,024 students enrolled in district run K-12 schools.
That’s especially notable as Lee County served as the chosen venue for Gov. Ron DeSantis to announce an executive order forbidding mask mandates within Florida school districts. Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees later issued a rule making clear districts could move forward if they allowed parents to opt out — after some large districts moved ahead with that caveat.
Responses to the Lee County rule have been decidedly mixed, with some saying the district should not defy the spirit of the Governor’s order and others saying allowing an opt-out diminishes the potential protection provided to students by a full masking policy.
A total mask requirement was in place through the entire 2020-2021 school year in Lee County.
While mask rules for schools and the broader public went into place last year during the pandemic, DeSantis in May lifted all remaining orders and ordinances. But as the delta variant for the coronavirus has spread, with the bulk of cases nationwide surfacing in Florida, jurisdictions have reconsidered mask requirements.
School districts especially considered the issue as cases rose just ahead of the new school year. A total of 10 school districts, including seven of the 10 largest ones, have some type of masking mandate in place.