Polk and Pinellas County school boards make masks optional

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Polk County School Board and Pinellas County School Board have both voted unanimously to lift the requirement that students in Kindergarten and higher grades wear a face mask effective tomorrow.

Incoming Polk County Superintendent Frederick Heid tells 8 On Your Side he will issue a memo that would make face masks voluntarily for adults.

“We have given parents a voice and choice because conditions allow that,” Heid said.

The CDC had recommended continued masking through the end of the school year to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Attorney Jeff Childers filed a lawsuit against the Polk School District on behalf of 46 parents and children who argue the mask policy has been harmful.

“It’s not good enough to make it optional,” Childers said after a demonstration outside the meeting. “My clients are concerned that the next time there’s flu going around or a cold or you name it they’re gonna be ordering these kids to wear masks again.”

Heid told 8 On Your Side the availability of vaccines for teachers factored into his support of the mask mandate being lifted.

“As far as the future is concerned, we will let the data and situations dictate where we go in collaboration with local, federal, state and county agencies,” Heid said right before the school board vote.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs are at odds with the school board letting the mask policy remain in the student code of conduct.

Heid said the reason for that is to make sure students who still choose to wear a mask don’t put one on with something offensive or inappropriate that violates the school dress code.

The Polk school board plans to discuss possibly rewriting the mask policy in the code of conduct at a meeting scheduled for July 27.

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