Parents urge DCPS school board to require physicians note for mask opt-outs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Parents and community members weighed in during public comment at a Duval County Public Schools workshop, pointing out what they’re calling flaws with the current student mask mandate.

This mandate requires students to wear a mask with an opt-out option for parents.

It was an emotional 40 plus minutes of public comment.

“This is scary,” one mother said.

“We must protect our children!” demanded Mike Ludwick with the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, a group that focuses on the problems of social, racial, and economic injustice.

Since school started last week, there are now more than 200 total reported COVID cases within DCPS schools. You can track the latest numbers here.

RELATED: DCPS elementary children account for six out of seven new student COVID cases

Action News Jax heard from nine speakers who are upset over the mask mandate as it stands, and some want the opt-out to require a physician’s note so it’s easier to enforce.

“[The rising cases] make me scared for our children and angry that we can’t do more as adults to protect them,” said Dr. Jennifer Cowart to the school board.

She’s here with Doctors Fighting Covid.

“What we’re seeing in our hospitals is heartbreaking, we’re seeing critical illness, we’re seeing suffering on a massive human capacity,” she told Action News Jax.

She’s also a mom of two. Her daughter is in third grade.

“My child goes to school every day with masks and the other day I picked her up and she didn’t have one on,” she recalled.

“I said, ‘Oh what happened?’ She said, ‘Oh, I lost it.’”

Then she asked, “‘Well, did your teacher not say anything to you?’” to which her daughter responded “no.”

But Cowart says teachers can’t be expected to keep track of masks and teach.

“That’s really an additional layer of burden that they don’t need,” she emphasized.

Some parents also want to bring back Duval Homeroom, but DCPS says that’s not possible.

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The executive order that once gave the district permission to offer remote learning, and paid for it, has expired. Superintendent Doctor Diana Greene says the district would need another executive order to bring it back.

So for now, Cowart implores parents who oppose the mandate to consider this:

“[It’s] like having a debate of whether or not to evacuate when the category 5 hurricane is already on the beach,” she said.

“Let’s let this surge pass, then let’s have a conversation about whether or not to allow parental choice.”