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Duval County Public Schools mandates masks with ‘opt-out’ option

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Duval County school board voted 5 to 2 to mandate masks in the classroom with an opt-out option for parents.

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The vote comes after more than two hours of public comment, centered around the debate on masks, from 43 people.

The school board voted to add this language to the mask policy:

“Any student not wearing a mask pursuant to this policy must, through his/her/their parent or guardian, complete the opt out procedures provided by his/her/their assigned school.”

Before the school board meeting, about 100 people gathered outside DCPS headquarters to rally for a mandate.

“If they’re going into the school system with kids who are unmasked, they’re sending their children into a toxic swamp of COVID,” said Dr. Jeff Goldhagen, the former director of the Duval County Health Department.

RELATED: Duval County superintendent provides update to COVID-19 protocols ahead of the new school year

“We need to hunker down. We shouldn’t even be starting school right now. Last year, we were pulling back when we weren’t even seeing cases closes to this,” said Jaimie Shires, a parent of two.

Several parents also spoke out against a mask mandate.

“The masks are hurting our children. They are causing the inability to socialize with one another,” Melissa Bernhart, a supporter of Mothers for Freedom, said.

“The mask is a barrier in his ability to learn and get where he needed to be,” Victoria Dykes added.

She said her third-grade son struggled to pass classes. She claimed his success was hampered by COVID-19 restrictions.

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