State Watch

Tampa-area school district imposes mask mandate after 10K students forced to isolate

A Tampa-area school district, the eighth largest in the U.S., voted on Wednesday to issue a mask mandate after more than 10,000 students and staff members were forced into quarantine or isolation at the start of the school year.

The decision by the Hillsborough County School District conflicts with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s order that parents be given an option to opt their kids out of wearing masks at schools. The decision by the school board requires a doctor’s note to prove a child cannot wear a mask, according to local Fox affiliate WTVT.

“There is an immediate danger to the public health, safety, and welfare,” board member Nadia Combs said.

The board voted 5-2 in favor of the mask mandate. The rule goes into effect immediately beginning on Thursday.

“I know that children want to be in school,” Combs said before the vote was cast. “If it requires children to wear masks for 30 days so we can go past this peak, that is what I’m asking for.”

Board chair Lynn Gray appealed to those against the measure, arguing it was being done to protect the health of children.

“If we’re just asking for a 30-day protective measure, isn’t that the least that we can do for our children?” Gray said. “If it saves one life, 10 hospitalizations, isn’t that the least we can do?”

This decision by the Hillsborough County School Board comes just one day after Florida’s Board of Education voted to investigate and punish two other school districts that were issuing mask mandates for their schools.

School officials from Alachua and Broward County argued that the pandemic was simply becoming too severe for a mask mandate to not be issued.

They also argued that the medical exemptions and the option for parents to transfer to private schools through the state’s Hope Scholarship voucher program meant students were not necessarily being forced to comply.

Tags Education Florida mask mandates Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis school mask mandate

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