As Orange County deliberates, Volusia schools march on with band during coronavirus pandemic

Here’s how Volusia County high school bands are able to keep playing despite COVID-19

ORLANDO, Fla. – As the Orange County School Board hosts a work session to revise its mask policy for band and chorus, Volusia County high school band directors say they are marching on with bands wearing specialized personal protective equipment.

On Tuesday, Orange County School Board officials discussed revising their mask policy for recess, chorus and band. Specifically, whether to spend $100,000 to order specialized PPE for band members, including bell covers for instruments, masks with slits in them and rules that say there can’t be more than 30 minutes of playing or singing time inside.

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In a presentation by Scott Evans, OCPS' senior director of visual and performing arts, Evans said the recommendations come from a highly respected study out of the University of Colorado Boulder.

“As of right now, they are recommending 30 minutes of masked playing time,” Evans said as he took the Orange County School Board through the study.

School board members seemed to be happy with the policy revisions for both band and chorus.

“I did go to a high school last week and I heard this lovely music and people were singing and I turned the corner and they were all singing outside, socially distant with the masks on and I was happy to see they were making it work,” said school board member Karen Castor-Dentel.

OCPS Communication Director Scott Howat said school officials wanted to see how the first week of games went before allowing the band and cheerleaders to join the football team under the Friday night lights.

However, this is something Volusia County high schools have been doing since the beginning of the school year.

“It works,” said DeLand High School Band Director Monica Leimer.

In fact, News 6 visited Leimer in the summer during band camp as they too had used the same University of Colorado Boulder study to order specialized PPE ahead of the school year. After the first story aired, she said many band directors across the state, including from Orange County, reached out to her for advice and questions.

Based on the recommendations of the studies, Leimer said the Volusia County School District purchased fabric bell covers for all of the high schools and each high school either ordered or made their own masks with slits in them.

Leimer showed off the masks DeLand High School ordered that had an extra layer over the slit itself.

“It really does contain the aerosols and we can see it, when they are playing on the plastic ones, you can see it collecting on there, which is good,” Leimer said. “There’s other schools starting to phase band and now they see that there are safe ways to do it, so I’m happy we can be a positive example for these other schools.”

If the board approves the mask revisions policy on Tuesday, it will go to the Orange County School Board for final approval on Oct. 13 with masks to be sent to schools as soon as possible.

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