BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Brevard County School District is requiring all students and staff to wear masks when they return to school on Aug. 24.
The motion passed in a 3-2 vote.
“I’m begging, I’m ready to get on my knees right now and beg you guys to do the bare minimum and mandate masks because I love working here,” one teacher said.
A parent did not agree with the teacher’s request.
“I’m here today to ask you to prohibit masks during class instruction for both teachers and students,” the parent said.
The school board held a work session on Thursday.
This session lasted several hours. The board got an update from the Brevard County health department on the latest COVID-19 data for the county.
The board asked Brevard DOH Administrator Maria Stahl if she could recommend schools to reopen, but she said she could not do that.
"We can't give a recommendation, we can explain data to you," Stahl said.
Stahl said the district’s plan is “very solid,” but added there will be coronavirus cases in schools once they reopen.
"I don't think anyone can expect to open and not have any cases. I think no matter what we do we're going to have cases," she said.
She is encouraging the district to take precautions to stop the spread of the virus in schools.
“I would say masks, hand-washing, social distancing. Those are paramount. We just need to keep doing that,” Stahl said.
Chairwoman Misty Belford said she is seeing families not following the current rule during the summer session.
“My fear is that otherwise, we’re going to have what we currently have, which is a whole lot of non-compliance is what I saw in our schools and then we’re going to end up shutting down schools again,” Belford said.
As of Aug. 7, Brevard County Public Schools officials had updated the district’s reopening plans to say that all students and staff members are required to wear face coverings when social distancing isn’t possible. Students will also be required to wear face coverings on school buses, according to the district.
According to the district’s reopening guide, the face covering requirement can be met with a face shield, a disposable mask, cloth mask or a neck wrap that is designed to function as a face covering.
Belford said there would also be exceptions to the rule. Students who can’t wear masks would be required to have a doctor’s note. Students in Pre-K through second grade won’t be required to wear masks but the school district strongly encourages that they do.
Board members also suggested students get "mask breaks" during the school day.
Belford said if students don't comply with the mask mandate, school officials would treat it like a dress code violation.
Board member Matt Susin said the district should take every precaution it can to keep schools open.
“If a school closes because we don’t have the right parts in place, then we are going to negatively impact our economy, negatively impact our children, negatively impact our workforce,” Susan said. “I think it behooves us to make every single precaution that we can.”
But board member Katye Campbell fears a mask mandate could negatively impact the classroom.
“Several teachers I’ve heard from having said I just don’t want to have that adversarial relationship, especially this year between me and my class,” Campbell said. “If we use the word ‘expect’ and we can educate, we can encourage, we can explain to students, ‘Hey, we do this out of kindness and compassion, not because you’re about to get in trouble because you broke the rule.’”