School District reinstates mask opt-out for students
The School District of Lee County has reinstated an opt-opt to its mask mandate, effective today.
Citing a 1st District Court of Appeal stay issued Friday, “which means the Florida Department of Education can continue to enforce its interpretation of the parental opt out until this matter is ultimately resolved,” Superintendent Dr. Ken Savage, sent a letter to all parents Monday, readdressing the issue and reinstating the ability of parents to opt their child or children out of the district’s requirement that masks be worn.
“Therefore, starting on Tuesday, September 14, The School District of Lee County will require face coverings, while allowing parents to opt-out without a medical exemption. This applies while being indoors on school campuses, indoors at school sponsored activities, and on school busses,” the letter states.
The requirement still will apply to district staff.
“As the stay only applies to students, District employees will still be required to wear masks and follow the medical exemption process as set forth through Human Resources,” the letter states.
The school board voted earlier this month to require masks be worn without opt-outs for parents after a judge ruled Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t have the power to restrict school boards from issuing mask mandates. School boards who have issued mask mandates without parental opt-outs have faced threats from the state department of education commissioner’s office of losing funding for their school board members, including Lee County Schools.
Savage said that he, and the district do understand that parents have the right to make decisions for their children. It is his hope, however, that most will opt for masks for the protection of their children and others.
“I will always be an advocate for parents’ rights,” he wrote. “I am especially considerate of those parents who want the right to send their child to school and not have to choose between the safety of their household and their child receiving an in-person, quality public education. I also can’t help but think of the rights of parents whose children lay isolated in the ICU at Golisano Children’s Hospital whose only desire is for their child to be able to survive this terrible ordeal.
“Given the legal landscape, I am appealing to your humanity and sense of community. With approximately 500 COVID-19 patients isolated within our local hospital system, and a 101% staffed bed capacity over the weekend, remember that these aren’t just numbers. These are people. These are your neighbors, your family, your friends, your co-workers. I choose to believe that the vast majority of our community are reasonable, caring people who want this surge to end as quickly as possible and would willingly volunteer to wear masks as an additional measure to protect each other from harm.”
He closed with a plea for the children.
“Our students have demonstrated great resilience during this entire pandemic,” he wrote. “They just want to go to school, engage with their classmates and have some semblance of normalcy restored as soon as this tragic experience subsides. The vast majority of parents and staff want the same.
“I implore you to prove your commitment to each other by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, and following other safety protocols to help us get through this surge together. I will never underestimate our community’s ability to show love and compassion for each other.”