Leadership for Lee County Schools confirmed a student mask mandate won’t be enforced as the state appeals a court ruling. But acting Superintendent of Schools Ken Savage is begging them to take steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 in school.
“I will always be an advocate for parents’ rights,” Savage wrote in an email to parents. “I am especially considerate of those parents who want the right to send their child to school and not have to choose between the safety of their household and their child receiving an in-person, quality public education. I also can’t help but think of the rights of parents whose children lay isolated in the ICU at Golisano Children’s Hospital whose only desire is for their child to be able to survive this terrible ordeal.”
Lee County, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ chosen location to announce an executive order forbidding school mask mandates just as the delta variant spurred a surge of infections in Florida, ultimately implemented one anyway. At first, the School Board approved a policy with a parent opt-out based on guidance from Surgeon General Scott Rivkees that did not violate DeSantis’ order. But when parents brought a lawsuit against DeSantis and Circuit Court Judge John Cooper said DeSantis’ order could not be enforced, Savage instituted a mandate with no opt-out except for those with a medical excuse.
But the First District Court of Appeals on Friday ordered a stay on the lower court decision as an appeal is considered.
“As the stay only applies to students, District employees will still be required to wear masks and follow the medical exemption process as set forth through Human Resources,” Savage wrote.
But the bottom line is, students won’t be required to wear masks unless the higher court upholds Cooper’s ruling.
Notably, Rep. Spencer Roach, a North Fort Myers Republican, has criticized the mask mandate and wrote a letter Friday saying Savage should lift the mandate. Otherwise, Roach said he would call on DeSantis to terminate Savage as superintendent.
Roach on Monday praised the decision to stay the mandate for now.
“I am grateful to (the) Lee County School Board and Superintendent Savage for doing the right thing,” he tweeted. “Thank you for empowering parents and supporting the rule of law.”