‘Demand mandatory masks indoors’: Leon County parents, activists rally for mask mandate for upcoming school year

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 5:35 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - More concerns were raised Monday about mask requirements in schools.

Leon County parents and local activists took to City Hall to urge Leon County Schools to keep kids masked after a decision made at the beginning of the summer made masks optional for the upcoming school year.

Superintendent Rocky Hanna says he believes it’s the right decision for all students in the district, but some parents and teachers are asking the district to reconsider.

“The delta variant is surging throughout our community, we’ve seen our positivity rate skyrocket, we’ve seen our local hospitals reopen COVID-only wings,” said City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow.

Matlow was one of several voices pleading for Leon County schools to require masks.

“Schools are the epicenter of our community, and elected officials have an ethical responsibility to curb spread and prevent COVID hospitalizations and death,” said parent and LCS English teacher Emily Marquez.

Marquez says allowing masks to be optional is putting the most vulnerable at risk, like those under 12 and younger who are not yet eligible and those who are immunocompromised.

“Life is nowhere near normal for those of us with compromised immune system,” Marquez added.

Recommendations released by the CDC earlier this month state that masks should be worn by anyone not vaccinated over the age of two. The American Academy for Pediatrics recommends universal masking in schools for anyone over the age of two regardless of vaccination status

LCSO art teacher Jessica Bartthle added, “They have researched how to best protect our most vulnerable population. Demand mandatory masks indoors. This isn’t a time to relax.”

Hanna said this decision was based on the numbers with the Leon County Health Department reporting zero hospitalizations among those under 12 and four hospitalizations among those 12 to 18.

“I feel like this is the right decision to give parents choices and options whether to mask your children or not,” Hanna explained.

He said the decision needs to be what’s best for every students.

“What impact has this virus had on its 30,000 students since we began back in march 2020, and then make a decision I feel is best for our students to keep them safe, and our parents and families,” Hanna said.

He added that if the numbers do change, the district can go back and re-require masks, social distancing and even go back to virtual learning.

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