Lee County Schools put mask mandate on pause, but beg students to mask up anyway
Interim Lee County Superintendent Ken Savage greets students at Tice Elementary as the school year starts. Image via Lee County Schools.

Savage
A requirement will wait until the courts take action.

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.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


8 comments

  • Alex

    September 13, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    I feel for the parents of kids in Lee County schools.

    This just cranked up their anxiety levels.

    And I still blame DeAnus, and I hope all of them remember when it comes time to vote.

    Reply

  • JD

    September 13, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    I hate to be the conspiracy theorist, but the freedoms vs public health stance of the Republican Party is starting to feel like a cancel culture and plandemic rolled into one – and historically those terms have but used by their own far right members but they are children of the same sentiment.

    Reply

    • JD

      September 13, 2021 at 10:32 pm

      And it’s incredibly sad the superintendent had to write something like this. I feels very much like our government no longer works to protect us, but it’s own self interest of those in charge.

      Reply

  • Professor Emeritus

    September 14, 2021 at 4:35 am

    Florida has finally admitted that Deaths as far back as August 21 hit 347 in a day. with a 7 day average of 318 on the 25th, 21 days before the 25th on August 4 the seven day average infection in Florida was 18095 318/18095= 1.8% fatality rate on known infections. At that rate Florida would have over 300 deaths a day until 21 days after 7 day average infections fell below 16,666. Infections fell below that level on Sept 7 which means Florida can expect 300+ deaths a day Through Sept 28

    Reply

  • Elaine

    September 14, 2021 at 7:52 am

    I wonder if their minds would change if a class action suit was filed against them? Or better yet personal lawsuits against board members. What a bunch of cowards that were elected to protect our children. I’m recording their votes and will make sure people are made aware come elections.

    Reply

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  • Tammy

    September 14, 2021 at 4:56 pm

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    September 14, 2021 at 9:22 pm

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