Hillsborough schools to require masks for students but keep it optional for employees, superintendent says

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough County Public Schools has changed course on mask-wearing and will now require students to wear them, according to Superintendent Addison Davis.

This is a change of course from Davis’ comments Friday when he said the district would only strongly recommend mask-wearing. The superintendent said new information changed the school board’s mind toward the idea of a mask mandate.

“Any of our parents who feel masks (are) not for them, they have the opportunity to opt out,” Davis said. “We’ll send out a parent link to all of our constituents today explaining that process.”

The email will allow parents to fill out HCPS Mask Opt Out Form if they don’t want to have their child wear masks. A form must be completed for each child.

“We need our parents to be actively engaged and involved,” he told 8 On Your Side Saturday. “This is why this decision allows our parents to have choice.”

However, while masks will be required for students, the district will keep it optional for employees.

All of this comes after the Florida Department of Education released new rules ensuring that the Hope scholarships could be used as vouchers for parents who want to keep mask-wearing as a personal choice. Without this option, mask mandates in schools violate Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order to allow mask wearing to remain a parental decision.

In those situations, the state could withhold funds from these schools. Davis said mandating without the opt-out option was impossible since the district could not survive with state support.

With this announcement, the board is now canceling is special meeting scheduled for this Monday.


Correction: Hillsborough County Public Schools has clarified that the opt-out decision is not the same type of opt-out decision as using the Hope Scholarship program. The form simply allows students to not have to go by the mask requirement if their parent fills out a form.

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