Masks are optional in Orange County schools but strongly encouraged for coming school year

District concerned about push back from Governor

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The debate over wearing masks in schools continues to be an issue as the beginning of the semester approaches.

Chair of the Orange County School Board Teresa Jacobs believes masks should be mandated.

“I will share with you my personal position, but that is not the board’s position,” Jacobs said. “I would put masks in place mandatory for the beginning of the year and monitor the data.”

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Jacobs is quick to point out it is not her decision alone.

The board’s official position is masks are optional in Orange County Public Schools, but they are “strongly urging” everyone to wear masks indoors.

“‘The board, not Teresa Jacobs, makes those policy decisions and I fully respect that,” Jacobs said.

The board approved the new mask policy at a July 13 board meeting, and the policy comes with a caveat:

“The school board will allow the superintendent to implement more restrictive face-covering requirements --if the CDC or other government entities issues such guidance,” according to the policy.

“To be perfectly clear, the policy that we approved, I would not have voted for it, if it did not have that authority,” Jacobs said. “Most of my board members would not have voted for it without that key provision.”

The board is also aware Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he will take action if any district requires masks, according to Jacobs.

“We have the Governor and the Commissioner of Education who have told us in very clear terms how much they do not support mandatory masks,” Jacobs said.

If any school gets multiple coronavirus cases, she would consider a mask mandate at that particular school, rather than a district-wide policy, according to Jacobs, because that might get less opposition from the state.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.