Santa Rosa schools will require masks when social distancing isn't possible
The Santa Rosa County School Board voted to make face coverings mandatory for students when social distancing isn't possible.
The policy, approved unanimously at a regular board meeting Thursday night, carves out an exception for students who have documented medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering. It also allows for students to remove face coverings when they are outside at recess or P.E. or in other locations where they can maintain safe physical distance from each other.
The new mask policy was written into the district's dress code policy, and failure to adhere to the policy will be treated as a dress code violation.
Although Florida is one of the nation's hot spots for new COVID-19 cases, there has been some resistance to government mask mandates. At the board meeting Thursday, two local fathers spoke out against the district's policy. The men argued that the low mortality rate among COVID patients didn't justify the discomfort and imposition the mandate would cause students.
Still, Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick noted that the policy was supported by the leadership of Baptist Health Care, Ascension Sacred Heart, West Florida Hospital and the Santa Rosa Medical Center. And in a discussion of the proposed policy at a board meeting last week, numerous parents and health care professionals spoke out in favor of the mandatory face coverings.
District 4 school board member Jennifer Granse said at Thursday's meeting that she appreciated the flexibly written into the district's face covering policy.
"It'll be helpful for people to know if students can't wear (face coverings) for some medical reason, they don't have to," she said. "I think that'll put a lot of them at ease."
The new policy was approved as an emergency order, meaning it goes into effect immediately. The board also approved a separate emergency order that pushed the first day of school back two weeks to Aug. 24. The move was made to provide school staff time to implement and train for a remote education curriculum.
The board is scheduled to hold a public hearing addressing both orders Sept. 10.
Wyrosdick also noted at the meeting that the deadline for parents to select one of three learning options for the coming school year had been shifted from Aug. 3 to Aug. 7.
Parents have the choice to enroll their children in either traditional brick and mortar classes, a parent-petitioned remote learning curriculum with live instruction from a teacher in the student's zoned school, or a virtual education program through Florida Virtual Schools.
Wyrosdick said as of Thursday afternoon, the district had received choices for about 6,000 of its 30,000 students.
"We did move that deadline ... to give parents a more time in which to communicate with their schools, get the information they need and deliver their choices," Wyrosdick said.
Parents can learn more about the district's student learning options or make their choice at santarosa.k12.fl.us/learningoptions/.
Kevin Robinson can be reached at email@example.com or 850-435-8527.