Nassau superintendent says district considering options for breaking down COVID data by school

School mask policy for Nassau County students, staff begins next week

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Starting next Monday, students and staff at public schools in Nassau County will be required to wear masks.

The Nassau County School District says students have the ability to opt out of wearing them, but teachers do not -- unless they have a medical exemption.

The school board voted unanimously in favor of the decision during a special meeting on Aug. 17. Parents have been asked to submit their student’s opt-out form by Friday, and the form does not require a doctor’s note, but it does need a parent or guardian’s signature.

“We want everybody to be safe and we’re really doing the best we can with the information that we’re given,” Donna Martin, chair of the Nassau County School Board, said during a meeting Thursday evening.

As of Thursday, cases among students and staff are being reported online across the district, but they aren’t being broken down by individual schools. Some parents brought that to the attention of the Board.

DOCUMENT: Form for parents to opt out

“I’m also here to ask to have better COVID data available to parents,” requested Kelsie Tomayko, parent of a Nassau County student. “I feel like every parent in this room is here to protect their child and not being given the data to look and see—is there an outbreak in our school?”

Dr. Kathy Burns, the school superintendent, said it’s an issue with manpower.

“We’re looking at what options as far as breaking it down by school. We haven’t gotten there yet,” Burns said.

Sue Rowan, who attended the meeting, addressed the superintendent.

“How often, Dr. Burns, do you see the data, and is it being broken down by school?” Rowan asked.

Burns thanked Rowan for her question, but offered no further response.

Other School Board members said they also did not have access to this information and that they want it to be available.

“I feel like it’s important. We can find a way to let the people, let everybody know the full transparency of what is happening within the schools and other districts do have it,” said Dr. Cyndy Grooms, with the School Board.

As of Thursday, the district was reporting that 52 students and four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Close to 400 students were in quarantine.

Some believe the district needs a stricter policy, like one that requires a doctor’s note.

“I thank you all for a 5-0 vote for a mask mandate,” said Robin Lentz, parent of a Nassau County student. “However, you and I know that it doesn’t have any teeth and people are opting out.”

Other parents do not want their children to be required to wear masks.

“This has nothing to do with protection and everything to do with control,” said Kennedy Murphy, another parent of a Nassau student.

Burns said the mask mandate for staff members -- unless they have a medical exemption -- will begin Monday and last 30 days.

“Then we’ll review where we are in relation to COVID and Nassau County and have all that information get out—send a message to all our principals and schools,” Burns said.

The School District did not give a timeline for how long the latest mask policy for students will stay in place.

About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.