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Hillsborough teachers concerned students will opt-out of wearing face masks

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Teachers in Hillsborough County are sounding the alarm over a medical exemption form that would allow kids to ‘opt-out’ of wearing a mask in school.

While teachers are excited to return to the classroom in two weeks, many are concerned about the spread of the coronavirus.

Their concern is growing after a medical exemption form started circulating that appears to allow parents to opt-out of having their children wear face masks when they return to class.

“We can’t have kids in my classroom, exemption or not, not wearing a mask. If they say that I have to, I will be one of those teachers that will be forced to take an unpaid leave of absence,” said Sonya Hanks, who has been a middle school teacher in Hillsborough County for six years.

Kurt Thoreson is a high school teacher in Hillsborough County and has seen the same form being sent around.

Thoreson is part of the team working to make sure his school is safe when students return to class.

“I just want to go about making my room as safe as possible and if that involves wearing a mask, if that involves social distancing, I want to try to do that as best as I can,” said Thoreson.

Thoreson said he does worry students will use the exemption as an excuse to get out of wearing a mask. “This just seems like it could all be undone if students and families have the knowledge if I don’t want to wear a mask, I don’t have to wear a mask.”

8 On Your Side reached out to Hillsborough County Schools for clarification of the policy.

An exemption form can be found on the Hillsborough Schools website that is different from the form being circulated.

Parents can view and fill it out here.

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