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 Superintendent says she will NOT recommend a mask mandate due to @GovRonDeSantis executive order still in effect banning mask mandates.— Brian Didlake (@News6Brian) September 2, 2021
A judge has ruled this executive order was an over-reach of his authority, but has currently not signed to cancel the order. @news6wkmg pic.twitter.com/hjAbGSSnhj
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.
Superintendent Kornegay provides everyone with this sheet saying this data will go towards her recommendation.— Brian Didlake (@News6Brian) September 2, 2021
She notes this data sheet shows a wide range of positivity rates from school to school. @news6wkmg pic.twitter.com/bT8c6Ovbs5
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.
Because the School Board's meeting tomorrow is at the Lake County Administration Building, and not the district office, the livestream will NOT be on the district's YouTube page. Instead, watch the livestream from the Lake County Govt. website, here: https://t.co/U7X2Aziezj pic.twitter.com/nVYE0ZXHuo— Lake County Schools (@lakeschools) September 2, 2021
For tomorrow's (9/2) special school board meeting, we now can accept public input via Zoom! Thank you to the county's IT Dept. for making this option available. Please click the link below to join the Zoom webinar at 9:30 amhttps://t.co/ZxXZAYQrZ2 pic.twitter.com/dhGLkmZEGq— Lake County Schools (@lakeschools) September 1, 2021