Marion County schools enact mask mandate with opt-out option

Resolution begins Thursday

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – The Marion County School Board has approved a face-covering resolution for the district but parents will have the option to opt-out of it.

The move, which goes into effect Thursday, comes as the district reported hundreds of students and staff are either diagnosed with COVID-19 or are quarantined.

[TRENDING: Death toll from Haiti earthquake nears 1,300 | Here’s where Fla. unemployment accounts stand after PIN resets]

The district said employees can opt out with a document medical condition.

“We have tremendous concerns after the first four days. We have a lot of quarantines, which means kids are missing their education,” Chairwoman Nancy Thrower said.

Marion County Public Schools reported 139 positive cases and more than 500 students and staff in quarantine the first week of school. The county as a whole is sitting at a 27.4% positivity rate.

The spike in cases prompted an emergency school board meeting Monday. The board first listening to parents.

“As a nurse, as a parent, I’m just asking a temporary until we can get this under control because we are out of control,” Rose Jenkins said.

“I’m begging for choice, for you to allow us to opt-out,” Lindsay Ardmore said.

The board then discussed its current COVID-19 protocols with district leaders. One of the issues brought up: students going to school sick or with a pending COVID-19 test. The health department said there may be some lag time between when students get tested and when results are shared with the school district.

“We’ve had this happen last week, where parents bring their kids to school positive and the school had not been notified,” board member Eric Cummings said.

“And that may happen at a physician’s office where they get tested separately, and that physician gets the results back and doesn’t notify the health department right away,” Mark Landers responded.

Ultimately, a majority of board members voted to enact a face-covering resolution with the option for parents to opt out.

“We were so hopeful all this would be behind us, but the medical piece is back, and we have to acknowledge that. But we have to be smarter, I will not support a mask mandate we had last year,” Thrower said.

The details of the facial covering resolution have not yet been released by the district, and there’s no word yet on how long the resolution will be in effect.

About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.