JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In an emergency meeting Monday, the Duval County School Board voted 5-2 to impose a 90-day face mask mandate for all students, except those with a note from a licensed health care provider saying the student has a medical, physical or psychological condition that prevents them from wearing a face covering.
Though the rule was approved, some details of how it will be implemented are still being developed, including the certification process for medical exemptions and a mechanism for an early suspension of the rule.
When does the rule take effect?
The emergency rule will officially take effect on Sept. 7.
But students are still strongly encouraged to continue wearing masks before then and the district’s parental opt-out policy, put in place on Aug. 3, currently remains in effect.
The rule will last for 90 days and expire on Dec. 6, about two weeks before the first semester ends.
According to the emergency rule’s wording, Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene is charged with developing a mechanism for the rule to automatically expire early if certain benchmarks are met.
Those procedures are set to be presented for the school board’s approval on Sept. 7.
Why did the board approve this mandate?
Though the rule has been hotly debated, the board’s decision to approve it was based on three key factors:
- The rapidly increasing number of positive cases reported in the Duval County Public Schools community, as noted on the district’s online COVID-19 dashboard;
- The Florida Department of Health expressed an inability to perform the contract tracing investigations for the swell of COVID-19 cases stacking up in the district;
As board members met Monday, the daily update on the district’s COVID-19 dashboard showed that an additional 226 cases had been identified, by far the largest single-day increase of cases listed on the site since the data first went online.
“We have new information that the superintendent sent us, we have ample documentation,” School Board Chair Elizabeth Andersen said. “Our case counts have continued to go up, this continues to be an emergency in our community and in our school district and people’s positions changed.”
How do I obtain a medical exemption to opt my child out?
According to the rule passed Monday night, parents will have to get a medical certification from a licensed health care provider.
This means students need a doctor’s note saying they have “a medical, physical, or psychological condition that prevents the student from being able to safely wear a face covering, and a description of the medical reason.”
The district said it will provide a specific form that parents will need to fill out and submit to the district.
DCPS said the opt-out procedure would be announced no later than Thursday evening.
What will happen to my child if they don’t wear a mask without the medical exemption?
Under the current rules, Superintendent Greene said, failure on the part of a student to wear a mask despite the district’s recommendation would not result in disciplinary action.
With the passage of an emergency rule, however, the face mask mandate will carry the same weight as any other policy in the student code of conduct, including disciplinary recourse.
News4Jax asked the district about how teachers and staff will be instructed to enforce the mandate and this article will be updated when a response is received.