Masked vs Unmasked: Separate classrooms still an option in Manatee County

Manatee County

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – School is in session again in Manatee County. Students returned Tuesday.

Kids at Oneco Elementary School are ready for a year full of firsts. Erica Moore says her kids are focused on their new gear while she’s facing a big concern.

The mom tells 8 On Your Side, “You know, I usually say education comes first but COVID beat that this time.”

The district has an optional face covering policy for all students.

Monday, the school board heard hours of comments from parents during a meeting. Many of those speaking called for a mask mandate.

Manatee County Superintendent Cynthia Saunders says their hands are legally tied due to Governor Ron Desantis’ executive order against mask mandates in Florida schools.

She tells 8 On Your Side an option that is still on the table is separating masked and unmasked elementary students in different classrooms.

In July, 8 On Your Side reported when the district sent a similar survey to elementary school parents.

“We are looking to work with the Department of Education and legal authorities to see if we can do that under the order. Parents will be receiving a survey shortly, today or tomorrow, they have this week to respond and then we would be making those adjustments,” the superintendent explains.

Moore, who works in healthcare, says she’d like all safety options explored for her kids.

“I’d rather have the masks, At least I know that protection is there,” the mom says, “like I told them, keep the masks on and stay as far apart as you can. It’s real, it’s serious.”

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