Lake County School Board approves new mask rules for high-transmission schools

Students can still opt out with a note from parents

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – The Lake County School Board approved a new plan Thursday that will require masks on school campuses with a COVID-transmission rate above 5% for at least two weeks.

The board met to discuss mask rules after a Florida judge once again ruled against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning mask mandates.

Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper ruled last month that DeSantis did not have the authority to stop school districts from enforcing mask mandates, prompting the governor to appeal the ruling.

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The appeal placed an automatic stay on the judge’s decision, allowing the state to continue to penalize school districts for requiring masks, but the judge’s ruling Wednesday lifted the stay.

Last week, board members met and did not come to a decision on Lake County Superintendent Diane Kornegay’s recommended mask policy of the district reviewing positivity rates for each school over a two-week period and if the school reaches a rate above 5%, then a mask policy would be implemented for two weeks.

During that meeting, board members said if there was a change in the law, then an opt-out option for masks wouldn’t be allowed in schools with a high positivity rate. Masks for students and staff in the school district are optional.

Now that the stay has been lifted, the ruling clears the way for school districts to enforce mask mandates without giving parents the ability to opt-out.

The Lake County School Board meeting began at 9:30 a.m. and included public comment. By noon, the board voted unanimously to approve the superintendent’s plan.

Masks will now be required at high-transmission schools but students can still opt-out with a note from a parent.

According to the amendment to district safety protocols, on the last day of each school week, the data will be compiled for the last two weeks to determine a school’s transmission rate. When a school moves into the “red” the school will notify all student, parents and staff that masks are required with a provision for parent opt-out.

Schools will stay in “red” until their COVID-19 positivity rate drops below 5%.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.