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DCPS suspends requirement for parents to opt students out of wearing mask

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Citing a new state law signed Thursday by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Duval County Public Schools says it is suspending its requirement for parents to opt their children out of wearing a face covering.

“The wearing of a face covering in all school settings, including school bus transportation, is now fully optional without any further process or requirement,” DCPS writes.

The school district announced an opt-out policy and made a form available in August, days before the school year began. Weeks later, the Duval County School Board adopted a 90-day mask mandate for students unless they got a note from a licensed health care provider that says the student has a medical, physical or psychological condition that prevents them from wearing a face covering.

That policy was loosened after nearly two months, when the district again allowed parents to have the ability to opt their children out. The school board approved recommendations from Superintendent Diana Greene to suspend the emergency rule when “the rolling seven-day positivity rate declines to 7.99% or less and the rolling seven-day new case count per 100,000 people declines to 49.99 or fewer.”

The latest decision comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation restriction COVID vaccine mandates in Florida. The bills were passed through a Special Session of the Florida Legislature and are effective upon the Governor’s signature.

Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation, pointed out that the percent positivity rate in Duval County is about 2% -- much lower than the 25% rate the county had back when school started in August.

Joshi says it’s even more important now for young students to be vaccinated, to keep those numbers low.

“The more of that age group that is vaccinated, the less likely any variant would spread and the more likely we’ll get out of this pandemic sooner,” Joshi said.

A voicemail from DCPS to parents explains: