VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Volusia County Schools is now mandating all teachers and staff wear a face covering.
In a memo sent to school district employees on Wednesday, Superintendent Dr. Scott Fritz said the policy would apply to all adults including parents, volunteers and visitors.
“This will apply to adults who are indoors and where social distancing of 6 feet or more cannot be maintained,” the message reads.
Fritz said he came to the decision after surveying principals.
The requirement takes effect Thursday and will run through Sept. 11.
“I will re-evaluate this decision as more information comes in, and we will relax the requirement as soon as it is practical,” Fritz writes in the message.
Volusia County students will return to the classroom on Aug. 16. Face coverings for students are optional but strongly recommended.
The school district also announced that elementary school meet the teacher events will be held virtually. Officials said the decision was to help keep schools as safe as possible for returning students as coronavirus cases surge in the area.
On Tuesday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported several AdventHealth hospitals in the county were at ICU capacity, with the health system adding there’s been an uptick in coronavirus-related hospitalizations.
The school board moved against following in Orange or Seminole counties’ footsteps in mandating masks for students but giving parents an opt-out. Superintendent Scott Fritz said it would be too hard to police.
Board member Ruben Colon said the district is working other angles for protection, too.
On Wednesday, the district also announced meet the teacher meetings will now be held virtually for elementary school students.
“We’re currently looking at our policies as well as the staples: making sure that hand sanitizer, desk wipes, and all the PPE that is necessary is in place,” he said.
Board member Carl Persis hopes the new mandate will help staffing levels, too, especially with a shortage in substitute teachers.
“We already have maybe about 80 vacancies right now before the school year started and that’s why i said we just can’t afford to have staff miss any work,” said Persis.