Duval County schools to issue a stricter mask policy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — With a 5-2 vote, the Duval County School Board will now implement a mask mandate for all public schools effective September 7th. Students can opt out of the policy if they have a medical, physical or a psychological exemption but it must come from a medical provider. The new policy will have students wearing a mask inside schools, but can take them off if they’re participating in sports.

Members of the school board listened to arguments for over 8 hours before ultimately making the decision.

“We are a board of public education, not a board of health. That’s just not what we do,” says school board member Charlotte Joyce. Adding, “[M]y fear is that you are taking away a parent’s right to listen to the advice of their pediatrician. If their pediatrician says ‘I do not recommend that you wear a mask, I don’t want these children to wear a mask’ then we’re saying that...we don’t care”.

Darryl Willie, the DCPS Vice Chairman countered by saying, “I don’t understand how we cannot do something at this moment, when we see these numbers and they’re only getting worse.” Since August 10th, the first day of school, Duval County schools have reported 815 positive COVID-19 cases. Of those 815 cases, 704 were students and 111 were staff.

After the vote, Dean Black, Chairman of the Duval GOP, made a statement condemning those who voted for the mandate, “Forcing kindergarteners, 1st graders and the like to wear masks is a shameful overreach of power by a group of cowardly politicians,” and “[They] have chosen to put politics and the teacher’s union over parental rights. Republican voters will remember come election time!”

Duval County is now the 8th school district to impose a mask mandate for students, joining Leon, Alachua, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade county.

In July, Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from imposing a mask mandate, however, a circuit court judge is listening to arguments that could overturn that order.

The new policy will take place for 90 days and the board could suspend the mandate if case numbers go down.