Lake County School Board meeting ends with no decision on recommended mask policy

Several local school districts change policy amid surge in COVID cases

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – The Lake County School Board meeting Thursday discussed whether students will have to wear masks in class, but ultimately ended with no decision on the recommended policy.

Currently, masks are optional for students and staff in Lake County, but many local districts have issued mask mandates in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 after a judge recently ruled against Gov. Ron DeSantis, who says parents should have the final say as to whether their child wears a mask.

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The meeting began at 9:30 a.m. at the Lake County Administration Building. Lake County Superintendent Diane Kornegay began the meeting saying she will not recommend a mask requirement due to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning mask mandates in schools.

“I know we are not going to reach a consensus,” Kornegay said, adding she is making data-driven decisions.

Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper said DeSantis overstepped his authority when he issued an executive order banning such mandates, agreeing with a group of parents who claimed in a lawsuit that DeSantis’ order is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. However, the order has not been signed yet.

Several school districts that have imposed mask mandates requiring a doctor’s note to opt out have faced financial precautions from the state.

The governor’s order gave parents the sole right to decide if their child wears a mask at school. The state is appealing Cooper’s ruling.

Kornegay recommended the district review the positivity rate for each school over two weeks and when the positivity rate reaches above 5%, the school would implement a mask-wearing policy for two weeks. After two weeks, if the school drops back below 5%, then the school would revert back to the previous optional mask-wearing policy.

According to the latest Lake County school data, at least seven schools had positivity rates above 5% for the week ending Aug. 27.

Lake County School Board Member Marc Dodd, District 3, said he was apprehensive voting on Kornegay’s recommendation for schools that have a positivity rate above 5% due DeSantis’ executive order still being in effect.

Parents and guardians spoke during public comment and by mid-morning, the board heard from three who supported Kornegay’s recommendation citing teacher and student safety.

The meeting ended with the board deciding to meet at the next available date, which has been determined to be Sept. 9. The board will vote on Kornegay’s recommendation at 9:30 a.m. Public input will be accepted in person or online via Zoom.

Seminole County schools is also holding an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss mask mandates and consider stronger rules as COVID-19 case numbers remain high.

Earlier this week, Volusia County’s School Board voted 3-2 during a contentious hearing to impose a mask mandate for students through Oct. 15. Students can only opt out of the mandate if they have a doctor’s note citing a legitimate reason.

On Monday, Brevard County also voted 3-2 in favor of a 30-day mask policy. Students there can also opt out of the policy with a note from a doctor.

Elsewhere, Orange County students will have to wear masks until the end of October. Just like in Brevard and Volusia counties, students can opt-out of the policy with a doctor’s note.

About the Author:

Daniel started with WKMG-TV in 2000 and became the digital content manager in 2009. When he's not working on, Daniel likes to head to the beach or find a sporting event nearby.