Conflicting feelings as Pinellas County School Board takes first step to extend mandatory mask policy

Coronavirus

LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) – The Pinellas County School Board recently took the first step to extend it’s mandatory mask policy for students, despite many parents speaking out against it.

Nothing is final yet and there is still time for school board members to make a change.

Nine parents spoke up at the school board meeting Tuesday strongly opposing the mask ordinance extension, but Wednesday 8 On Your Side spoke with some in the community who feel strongly it should be extended.

“Imagine if you will my utter disgust and disappointment when I heard the school board suggested renewing this policy with no end date,” said Amy Mack while addressing school board members in Tuesday’s meeting.

Mack said she has kids in the school system and represents all parents who sent their kids back to school under the impression the mask mandate would end on Nov. 9.

“We do not need to force masks on children. I implore you to let the mask mandate expire as written.” Mack said.

Others in the county disagree with Mack including Patrick Duax who thinks kids should keep wearing masks in school to help protect the entire community.

“I think they should reinstate it, keep the kids safe and teach them some social responsibility,” said Duax. “Of course, it’s a very contagious disease. It’s not just for the children’s safety but for the adults too.”

Pinellas County Superintendent Dr.Grego said he thinks the masks are working.

“This is not the time to reverse and say some can and some can’t,” Dr.Grego said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Dr.Grego said on Monday he spoke with county and state department health officials.

“Their message to us is ‘Job well done,’ everyone thought there would be a tremendous spike,” but Dr.Grego continued by saying there hasn’t been one.

Dr. Grego credited teachers, students, and parents who have been using masks and taking COVID precautions.

“Dr. Ulyee Choe [Florida Department of Health Director for Pinellas County] said it’s safe to say schools are not driving this pandemic in Pinellas County because of our use of PPE. And Dr. Allison Messina [with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital] said schools are one of the safest places to be due to that,” Grego said.

The next school board meeting to finalize extending the mask policy is the morning of Nov. 10.

A spokesperson for the school said even though the mask ordinance technically ends Nov. 9, students are expected to wear them to school on Nov. 10 and a decision will be finalized that day at the meeting.

School board members need to vote again at that meeting before the extension becomes official.

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