JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A newly formed group is calling on Duval County Public Schools to require masks in buildings, postpone the school year until after the Republican National Convention and many other changes to the district’s reopening plan.
The congregation of parents and stakeholders from around the Duval County School District formed the Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Team on Friday and brought a litany of concerns to the school board during its special meeting Tuesday morning.
At the top of its list, the group of 150 people wants to make sure masks are required in classrooms even if the city removes its mandate. It’s requesting the requirement be added to the dress code.
“Masks have to be mandatory, and it’s a shame that it appears that this has become a political issue because the safety of our children shouldn’t be a political issue, and parents can’t make the decisions for their families, not just their children, until we have some of those details,” said Rebeccah Beller, a member of the group.
The group also wants the start of the school year moved back to Sept. 8, largely because of concerns over the RNC in Jacksonville, and the number of people that are expected to visit. With Duval scheduled to begin school on Aug. 10 and the RNC coming during the week of Aug. 24, the group argues that “starting school Sept. 8 would allow the district to gauge any virus increase that would occur” during the event.
On Tuesday, the School Board agreed to spend more than $4 million through the district’s COVID-19 fund to purchase and install 120,000 desk partitions. Members of the group have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the partitions, saying it is an ineffective alternative to social distancing.
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The congregation believes every grade level, including middle and high school, should have the full-time option to keep learning virtually. Additionally, the group believes middle and high school students should also have an option to be at school full-time, saying that school is a safe haven for many students in troubled homes.