Keeping students safe from COVID, local doctor reacts to DCPS mask opt-out

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Duval County School Board voted Tuesday to require masks with an ‘opt-out’ option for parents.

”I’m nervous, but I’m more comfortable now,” Dr. Jennifer Cowart, a Jacksonville hospitalist and mother of two, said.She spoke during the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting and implored the board to mandate masks.

”I would’ve liked to see a full mandate like we had last year, but I will take incremental change.

”Parents will be required to complete an opt-out procedure for their child not to wear a mask in school.

In an interview with CNN, Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said, “It is not tied to discipline. Our schools are prepared for when students arrive — whether they’re wearing a facial covering or not — they have their procedures they would follow.”

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry held a press conference Wednesday encouraging locals to get vaccinated, but the shot is still not available to students under 12.

According to the Florida Department of Education, there’s approximately 72,000 students under 12 in Duval County, including private schools.

Dr. Cowart said she will be sending her 4 and 8-year-old to school with either a disposable surgical mask or KN95 mask.

”She knows that mommy thinks it’s important to wear a mask. So I think talking to your kids about why it’s important to stay safe.”

In school, Dr. Cowart said she would like to see similar standard seating charts like last year to help in the contact tracing process.

She also recommended sending your children to school with sanitizer and wipes and teach them the proper hand-washing protocols.

The district told Action News Jax that desk shields would also be available in elementary schools for small group activities.

However, they will not be used in secondary schools.

Temperature checks will also continue in elementary schools.

A vaccine clinic starts August 18th in all secondary schools for staff and students, with parent permission.

A full list of safety protocols can be found here:

Dr. Cowart noted adults can protect kids by getting vaccinated and also wearing masks.

”We need to confront [Delta] with the same realism that we do a hurricane,” she said.