Duval County Public Schools mask mandate in effect Tuesday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Students will go to class at Duval County Public Schools on Tuesday with a mask mandate in effect. Only students with a medical certification will be exempt.

The mandate will go into effect for at least 90 days. The school board voted on it 5 to 2 on Aug. 24.

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Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran threatened to withhold funding equal to the salaries of all school board members because of the mandate.

In a letter to the district Corcoran said the district’s policy goes against the state’s requirement to have an opt-out option for parents.

“I just wish [Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene] would respect the kids and the parents in the community she serves,” said Mark Spencer, a DCPS father.

The mandate has parents split on the decision.

“I’m really proud. I think our superintendent has done a great job through all of this, and I think our school board definitely made the right choice,” Amanda Hightower, a DCPS mother, said.

In a response to the state defending its decision, the district pointed to high case counts and lacking contact tracing. As of Monday, there are 1,960 cases district-wide, which is 75% of the total cases of last year.

On its website, DCPS lists disciplinary consequences for students who do not follow the mandate. “If students choose not to comply with this requirement, the following disciplinary consequences will be experienced,” the district confirmed.

Consequences:

1st Occurrence

  • School will provide a face mask to the student.
  • Student will complete Face Mask Safety Contract with Mask Expectation – requires student’s and parent’s signatures.

2nd Occurrence

  • Student sent to discipline office.
  • Student coded for 1.06 Nonconformity to General Code of Appearance.
  • Parent contacted.
  • Parent conference (virtual or in-person).

3rd Occurrence

  • Student sent to discipline office.
  • Student coded for 2.01 Failure to Adhere to Safety Consideration.
  • In-school suspension (one to two days).

4th Occurrence

  • Student sent to discipline office.
  • Student coded for 2nd 2.01 Failure to Adhere to Safety Consideration.
  • Out-of-school suspension (one to three days); parent conference encouraged.

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Spencer questioned the timing of the mandate and pointed out the case counts and hospitalizations are now trending downward. He added that monoclonal antibody treatment is available in downtown Jacksonville seven days a week.

“You have that. You have a decline in the community. But yet, the Duval County School Board is out here mandating masks without any transparency,” he said.

Several local doctors spoke before the school board, claiming masks will slow the spread of COVID-19 inside schools.