JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Local schools districts are gearing up to welcome students back safely, for the next school year.
In preparation, Duval County Public Schools announced their COVID-19 safety measures, which includes making masks optional.
On Tuesday, June 1st, some parents are expected to gather outside of DCPS headquarters on the Southbank to protest against masks in schools and for medical freedom.
Parents will also be supported by a group known as America’s Frontline Doctors. Action News Jax Courtney Cole spoke to the organization about what they’re hoping to achieve during tomorrow’s protest.
“The parents are protesting and rallying together to let the school board know their position on all things related to masking—which doesn’t just end there. They, they want their voices to be heard,” said Jessica Housewright.
Housewright is the National Citizens Corps Coordinator for America’s Frontline Doctors. She explained that parents want to work with the school district.
“They want the school district to know that they don’t co-parent with the schools,” Housewright added.
If the America’s Frontline Doctors sounds familiar to you, this is also the group of physicians that went viral after making claims Hydroxychloroquine could cure COVID-19.
On their website, the group of physicians describes themselves as a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization.
“The issue is about medical freedom—number one—and the parents’ rights to, like Jessica said, to parent their children without the intrusion of any government or government agency such as a public school,” said Rob Moltz, the Tour and Field Operation Manager For America’s Frontline Doctors.
This is in response to DCPS releasing their COVID-19 safety measures, last week.
Those measures include:
- Making masks optional for students on-campus.
- Elementary school students don’t have the option to get their COVID-19 vaccine yet, but the district is strongly encouraging parents to keep them masked-up.
- Discontinuing temperature checks.
- Removing desk shields for high school students (secondary school), but they will be available for small group learning in elementary school.
“I personally think it’s time to get them back in and just be careful. And let it be the choice of the parents. If they want their children back in school, they should be able to put them back in school,” said Christin Harbison.
Harbison told Cole although her two children are grown now, but she said she feels that if parents want their kids back in school, they should be able to do that.
But she also thinks it’s important that local schools focus on this to make sure parents feel safe sending their kids back to school.
“Making sure that everyone’s using a standardize template about being as sanitary as possible for reducing the chances of viral transmission,” Harbison explained.
According to the survey:
- About 49% of participants said masks should be optional.
- Another 26% said masks should be mandatory
- 22% said masks should only be mandatory in movement and crowded spaces.
28,600 people participated in the survey, which was given May 10, 2021- May 24, 2021.
Click here to read more of the survey results.
Dr. Chirag Patel, The Assistant Chief Medical Officer at UF Health said he believes DCPS is on the right track with their COVID-19 measures.
“You know, I think we have to be considerate of the fact that, you know, case positivity is going down across Florida. Case numbers are down, deaths are now in the single digits, per day. So we’re making progress as more and more people get vaccinated,” Dr. Patel told Cole.
Duval County Public Schools says they still plan to emphasize social distancing, make hand sanitizer available to students and continue with their current cleaning/sanitizing procedures.
“Whatever the school district says is fine and well, but you know, I’m a parent and it’s my responsibility to educate my children on the right things to do, to keep themselves safe and keep those around them safe,” said Dr. Patel.
Duval district leaders are still working to figure out if students will be required to wear masks on the school bus.
Cole asked Patel what hi most important piece of advice would be for parents when it comes to sending their kids back to school in-person:
“My wife laughs at me when I say this to my girls, but I constantly have to remind them to stay out of other kids’ faces. And so I would say to parents out there, remind your kids stay to stay out of other kids’ faces. I think that that’s the most important thing they can do to keep themselves and others protected. If your kids haven’t been socially interacting with a lot of other kids, when they finally see other kids, the first instinct is to really get close to each other because you’re showing your excitement. It’s going to be great, but just protect yourself by keeping your space,” Dr. Patel said.
Cole reached out to St. Johns, Clay and Nassau counties to learn what their COVID-19 safety measures are for fall 2021-2022.
The St. Johns County School District said information about its COVID-19 measures for next year can be found at this link: https://www.stjohns.k12.fl.us/blog/may14/
Any updates over the summer will also be added to that link.
Cole is still waiting to hear back from Clay and Nassau counties.
Changes at Duval County Public Schools are set to go into effect on the first day of school, August 10, 2021.
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