Orange County school superintendent orders students wear masks for 30 days

Parents can opt their child out of mask order with a note

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins is ordering all students to wear masks in schools for 30 days starting on the first day of school, Aug. 10.

“Out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our students and employees and after consultation with our health experts and school board members I am implementing required face masks for all students unless the parent chooses to opt-out of the requirement,” Jenkins’ recorded message to parents said.

The opt-out can be as simple as a note which the student can give to a teacher on the first day of school, according to the message.

“I want to acknowledge parents who are passionate on both sides of this debate and I realize that neither group will be fully satisfied at this juncture,” Jenkins said.

The message added that the district will decide how to move forward after the 30 days have expired.

On Tuesday, more than 209,000 students along with 24,000 staff will return to campus and there they will see many of the same safety measures in place last school year, leaders say, including cleaning, disinfecting and social distancing when feasible.

Orange County Public Schools announced Wednesday it will require masks for its employees starting Friday, a week after an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis was signed that bans mask mandates for students. The governor directed state departments in the executive order to give parents the final say on whether children should wear masks in schools in light of updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County said they will also continue contact tracing in classrooms, prioritizing schools in the community along with those most vulnerable.

Dr. Jenkins added it is possible that entire classrooms or even schools could quarantine if needed by the Department of Health and that many of those classrooms still have the technology to go digital if needed, though LaunchEd will not be an option this year.

The district also r-launched their school COVID-19 dashboard which shows Friday, four days from even the start of school there were already 104 positive cases and 87 staff and students in quarantine.

For more on the health and safety protocol OCPS is taking this school year or for frequently asked questions, click here.


About the Authors:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.

Nadeen Yanes joined News 6 as a general assignment reporter in 2016. She grew up in Leesburg and graduated from the University of Florida. Nadeen has won three Associated Press Awards for her reporting on the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the trial of the Pulse gunman's wife and the capture of an accused cop killer, Markeith Loyd.