‘First day of school is special:’ Orange County superintendent meets with students, parents

Dr. Barbara Jenkins says parents opting out of mask mandate will be respected

It was a successful morning for students, parents and teachers at Hungerford Elementary School in Eatonville.

EATONVILLE, Fla. – It was a successful morning for students, parents and teachers at Hungerford Elementary School in Eatonville.

Students were greeted at the door with balloons and a red carpet on Tuesday, the first day of school.

[TRENDING: Florida averages 19,200+ daily COVID cases | Parents sue DeSantis over masks]

They also received brand-new bookbags with school supplies thanks to the Travel and Leisure Charitable Foundation.

“It never gets old, even in the midst of the pandemic, the first day of school is just special,” Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins said.

Jenkins went over the district’s mask mandate for students and employees, reminding families that parents have the choice to opt their kids out with a simple note.

“The board and I respect that every parent has the right to choose, and we made sure our schools understand no matter what an individual student choice or their parent’s choice is -- that they will be treated with respect,” she said.

According to numbers reported by the school district at the end of the first day, about 8,200 opt-out notes were submitted Tuesday, meaning roughly 4% of students opted out of wearing masks with a note.

Jenkins explained that social distancing will be limited this year, but the district will be doing everything it can to keep students safe, including enhanced cleaning.

Jenkins said after she will meet with the medical advisory board and health leaders in 30 days to discuss what will happen next.

Parent Alexis Sinclair dropped her first-grader off Tuesday and said she feels comfortable with the safety measures in place at her son’s school.

“I see the people coming in (who) are vaccinated and those (who) are not, so I think it adds an extra layer of protection for the children. I think it’s needed,” Sinclair said.

In addition to the free bookbags, the Travel and Leisure Charitable Foundation announced that Eatonville students will be eligible for their scholarship program (Travel + Leisure Eatonville Scholarship Program), which is launching this school year.

About the Author:

Ezzy Castro is a multimedia journalist on News 6's morning team who has a passion for telling the stories of the people in the Central Florida community. Ezzy worked at WFOR CBS4 in South Florida and KBMT in Beaumont, Texas, where she covered Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Being from Miami, Ezzy loves Cuban coffee and croquetas!