‘My job will never replace a child’s life’: Leon County Schools maintaining mask mandate despite state threats
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Leon County Schools announced Monday its mask requirement for kindergarten through eighth-grade students will remain in effect through the end of October.
LCS Superintendent Rocky Hanna says he’s hopeful by the end of October, masks will be 100% optional in the district, so long as positivity numbers stay low. Currently, students can only opt-out of the mask mandate for medical reasons.
In the wake of the state’s new emergency rule, asymptomatic students who return after having close contact with COVID-19 will be required to wear a mask during what would’ve been the quarantine period, Hanna announced during the press conference. Students who refuse to wear masks during that 10-day period will have to stay home.
Hanna also said Gov. Ron DeSantis has abused his executive power, threatening democracy in Florida. He emphasized those were his own views, not those of any other school board members.
“The decisions he’s made have been reckless,” Hanna said. “As a former American government and civics teacher, I find it very disturbing that our governor has no intention of respecting the separation of power, which serves as the foundation of our democratic society.”
The press conference was held after the State Department of Education sent a letter to LCS last week, telling the district to comply with the state’s ban on mask mandates. If the district doesn’t comply, the state says it will withhold funds for school board members’ salaries and consider other penalties.
In response to the letter, Hanna and School Board Chair Georgia Bowen said they believe the district complied with the previous rule and are evaluating how the new Department of Health rule will impact LCS’ current mask mandate.
Hanna also announced during Monday’s press conference that LCS will challenge the state’s new emergency rule in court.
LCS was one of the school districts in the state challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis’ mask mandate ban, but the case was rendered moot because DOH rescinded the rule being challenged and replaced it with another. The new DOH rule was implemented after DeSantis appointed Dr. Joseph Ladapo as the state’s surgeon general on Sept. 21.
The rule emphasizes the decision for students to wear a mask or not is “at the parent or legal guardian’s sole discretion.” Also under this rule, students who are exposed to COVID-19 but stay asymptomatic do not have to quarantine and can return to the classroom immediately.
The district’s COVID-19 dashboard shows 230 reported cases over the last 14 days, with 364 students in quarantine during the previous school day.
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- Department of Education directs Leon County Schools to comply with mask mandate rules, LCS asks for more time in response
- DeSantis’ mask mandate ban back in effect after appellate court reinstates stay in case
- Joseph Ladapo selected as Florida’s new surgeon general
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