DCPS’ new mask mandate begins

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Duval County Public Schools now requires students to wear masks starting Tuesday.

DCPS mom Samari Itami took her kids to the park for some outdoor fun. Like many, her family has found new ways to stay active and social while reducing the transmission of COVID-19.

“It’s to protect the children,” Itami said.

RELATED: Duval County Public Schools mask mandate in effect Tuesday

With school weeks in, DCPS began its first day of what will be at least 90 days under a new mask mandate, which only allows students to opt out of face coverings with a doctor’s note.

“We’re particularly concerned about our kids who haven’t had the opportunity to be vaccinated for those that are under age 12 and are back in school,” UF Health Dr. Adriana Cantville said.

Cantville believes the mask mandate will help decrease transmission, noting what she called “an exponential” spread in the first weeks of class.

There have been 1,960 total COVID-19 cases at DCPS since the first day of school.

Itami understands masks can be a nuisance to kids, but feels it’s up to school districts to decide what’s best for them.

“Obviously they prefer it without the mask, it’s just not as comfortable, but you know, kids are very adaptable, and if that’s what they have to do to protect themselves and others then that’s what they have to do,” Itami said.

DCPS joins several Florida school districts in imposing the mask mandate. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order only allows schools to let students opt out of wearing masks -- with a parent’s approval -- not a doctor’s note.

Action News Jax asked DCPS for the number of mask opt-out forms that have been submitted, and how many students have been approved to not wear masks. We will update this story with DCPS’ response.

“We know that masks are safe, we know that they’re effective, so it’s going to be a good thing to slow down the spread of this virus within schools,” Cantville said.

Meanwhile, Itami hopes the mask mandate won’t last forever -- only during times where COVID-19 cases are spiking.

LINK: How it started vs. how it’s going: DCPS’ mask mandate

The Florida Board of Education told DCPS that if it does not obey the governor, it’ll lose funding -- including salaries for board members.

DCPS maintains it is not going against the governor’s orders. A judge ruled in favor of school districts like DCPS that want to impose such mask mandates. The governor has appealed that ruling.