‘The outcomes still remain the same:’ Florida allows students to opt out, transfer from schools with mask mandates

Coronavirus

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida parents and their children will now have the ability to leave their schools if they do not wish to participate in a district’s mask mandate, following a decision from the Florida Board of Education Friday.

In an emergency meeting, the board allowed vouchers to be used if parents think a school’s COVID-19 policy is harassing their children. This would include requirements to wear masks.

According to Hillsborough County superintendent Addison Davis, this would allow school districts to enact mask mandates while giving parents the option to opt out by transferring with help of the Hope Scholarship program.

“We want to make certain that we keep every one of our learners internally in our schools,” Davis said.

The scholarships were originally meant to allow students suffering from bullying to move to a private school or public school outside of their district.

So far, Hillsborough County Public Schools is only strongly recommending masks for students. Davis said with only a few days ahead of the first day of school next Tuesday, the recommendation strategy will have the same result as a mandate.

“It’s a parent’s choice,” he said. “The outcomes still remain the same related to optional or mandating with an opt-out.”

Davis also questioned what is supposed to happen where a child doesn’t want to wear masks if the school district mandates them.

“We get to a point where we’re going to start sending kids home, missing the instructional time?” he said. “The learning loss already was exacerbated last year over the last 16 months.”

Davis did say that the district will prepare the proper procedures of a mandate in the background just in case it becomes necessary with a rise in student COVID-19 cases.

“If we get to a part where it’s in a geographical, or it’s widespread, then we’ve got to come back to the drawing table,” he said.

In the case of a quarantine case, Hillsborough County Public Schools will not be have e-learning, but it will have a website to help students learn skills. Assignments will also be uploaded to Canvas for students to work on.

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