JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Students attending Duval County Public Schools no longer need a doctor’s note, but they still need paperwork signed by a parent or guardian to opt out of wearing a mask in the classroom.
The district said the change officially goes into effect Wednesday. Last Friday, it announced its mask policy was loosening after reported COVID-19 cases significantly dropped in the community.
“For the last three weeks, we’ve been pretty much below where we’ve been this time last year or pretty much equal to it,” Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said during Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
Greene said that more than 11,000 opt-out forms have been filled by parents this school year. She said that just shy of 9% of students in the district.
Some community members thanked the district and school board for requiring students to wear masks.
“I appreciate your putting the health of students, teachers and staff -- frankly the community at large, ahead of politics,” Duval County resident Dave Baldwin told the school board. “My mother, sister and brother and law—numerous friends and coworkers are all highly vulnerable to COVID-19.”
But the majority of parents at Tuesday’s meeting criticized the group for having any mask mandate in place.
“You do not deserve any thanks or praise for the mask mandate dropping,” said Katie McNeil. “You deserve continuous criticism for having forced masks in the first place, harming the children for nearly two months for no benefit.”
Others said the district defied the executive order directed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Parents have the authority over their children,” said Debbie DeSipio. “Not you and the doctor.”
Staff members are now encouraged, but not required to wear masks. Visitors at schools will still be required to wear a covering.