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Duval schools to ditch mask mandate, Duval HomeRoom and desk shields this fall

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After getting feedback from community stakeholders and the Florida Department of Health, Duval County Public Schools is ending its mask mandate for students and pulling back on other coronavirus protocols for the 2021-22 school year.

During a workshop Tuesday, the school district shared that it is also ending temperature checks, discontinuing the use of desk shields and ending the use of Duval HomeRoom, the district’s school-based distance learning platform. Full-time virtual school’s offerings will be expanded to include a synchronous learning option for elementary students through Duval Virtual Instruction Academy.

Masks are still strongly encouraged for elementary students but voluntary, according to the workshop presentation shared with News4Jax. That’s because elementary students are not yet eligible for the vaccine, the district said.

Mask enforcement for school buses is still under consideration.

Tiffany Powell, a parent, said she is relieved at the district’s decision.

“My kid had to go back to school and, unfortunately, had to be subjected to the ridiculousness of having their face covered all day, and I’ve not agreed with it the entire time,” Powell said.

Shanetha Watson, a DCPS parent, said she doesn’t support the decision to do away with Duval HomeRoom. She said her daughter has underlying health concerns.

“Due to the fact that she has a lot of underlying medical issues, I feel like they’re not taking into consideration that the children are not vaccinated. And the younger children in the elementary schools are not vaccinated,” Watson said.

More than 28,000 people participated in a survey that asked what parents, students and teachers want to see in schools later this year.

About 49% said face masks should be optional, while 26% wanted face masks to continue to be mandatory. 41% of respondents wanted to remove all desk shields, and 18% wanted to keep them in place. Most replies to the survey came from parents.

The district said shields will still be available for small group use in elementary schools.

The district will keep cleaning and hand sanitizer practices in place during the pandemic going into the fall.

The changes will start on the first day of school, Aug. 10., but face masks are strongly encouraged, but not required, during summer school.

About the Author:

Reports weeknights for The Ten O'Clock News and News4Jax at 11.