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Hillsborough County students required to wear masks for return to class amid waiver controversy

Coronavirus

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A form circulating in schools and between teachers this week in Hillsborough County concerned many teachers.

The form seemed to offer parents a way to simply opt-out of having their child wear a mask when they return to school.

An email sent with the form appeared to be from a school district official saying no medical documentation would be needed for a child to opt out of wearing a face covering if their parent signed the form.

For middle school teacher Sonya Hanks, that simply wasn’t acceptable.

“There will be no social distancing, the only protection that we have are basically masks and now we are being told there is a mask waiver out there which has instilled some fear in teachers,” said Hanks.

Hillsborough School Superintendent Addison Davis spoke out to clarify the district’s position on wearing masks.

“We will be requiring masks in every one of our properties with Hillsborough County public schools. There will be exemptions, but they will be medically driven,” said Davis.

The superintendent says some medical exemptions will be granted, but a student’s family will need to provide medical documentation that can be verified.

“Everything will have to be documented and we will make certain that we are reviewing that information in order to ensure we are protecting the integrity of our implementation of masks,” said Davis.

The Hillsborough County School district released the final form on Tuesday evening and parents can view and fill it out here.

The school district will provide disposable masks to students who forget or lose theirs, that will happen the first time, after that Davis says school officials will reach out to the parents

“If they come back and they do not have the mask again, we are going to immediately engage with their parents and talk to them about the importance, but give them another disposable mask and if it continues openly then we will identify a better placement than brick and mortar to be able to learn from a remote perspective,” said Davis.

High school teacher Kurt Thoreson had expressed concern if students could simply opt-out of having to wear a mask and says the clarification from the school superintendent makes him feel better about going back to class.

“This isn’t a discipline issue as I see it. This is going to be a safety issue. I want to be safe, I want my students to be safe, I want the family I go home to be safe and this ruling is going to really help that and I feel much more comfortable about that being decreed by the superintendent,” said Thoreson.

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