Superintendent Dr. Greene addresses DCPS mask recommendation: ‘It’s a family decision’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — UPDATE 8/9/2021:

DCPS board members voted 5-2 to mandate face coverings for students, with an option to opt-out.

Parents and legal guardians will be able to fill out a form to opt their students out of the requirement.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The Florida Department of Health-Duval said it supports Duval County Public Schools’ position to ‘strongly encourage’ masks when school starts in less than two weeks with no mandate.

Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene addressed the decision during Wednesday’s school board workshop.

“Bottom line: it’s still a decision that family has to make,” she said.

The CDC reversed its position Tuesday and now recommends all students and staff wear a mask inside regardless of vaccination status.

Superintendents across the state are meeting Friday to further discuss the issue of masks. Any changes will be announced during the August 3rd school board meeting.

Dr. Greene also announced new quarantine guidelines. Unvaccinated students and staff who are exposed to COVID-19 will need to quarantine for ten days. Vaccinated students and staff exposed will have to wear a mask for ten days as long as they aren’t showing symptoms of the virus.

“I always stay on the side of caution. I know we’re all trying to do the same thing. There’s this balance between caution and freedom and all these different things,” School Board Vice Chair Darryl Willie, said.

“But we’re getting a lot of information now and we have to decide as Duval County and what’s happening here.”

Temperature checks will return only at elementary schools and desk shields will be available at those same buildings.

A COVID-19 dashboard will also continue this year and is expected to go live on August 10th, the first day of school.

Hand sanitizer and wipes will go in every classroom. Each school will also have at least a health aid on hand.

A handful of parents showed up at the workshop in support of a mask mandate.

“It’s not a personal decision. This is all or nothing. We’ve got to do it together to protect everybody,” Agata Gardner said. She’s a mom of two children under the 12-year-old vaccine threshold.

Gardner started a petition with now more than 1700 signatures as of Wednesday night requesting the district to require masks.

“The situation in Jacksonville is truly dire,” Nicole Alexander said. She’s a mother of two and physician at Baptist Health and formerly at UF Health.

“We have a tool that’s inexpensive and can easily be applied.”

However, several parents support the mask option. Action News Jax spoke with Victoria Dykes, a mom of five kids in the district, on Tuesday.

“Our kids don’t want to wear them. The flip-flop, going back and forth — that’s confusing,” Dykes said, referring to the CDC’s change in guidance.