On April 14, 2021 Florida Commissioner of Education, Richard Corcoran, released a letter to the School District Superintendents requesting that upon the student’s return for the 2021-2022 school year they remove the mandatory face mask policy.
Leon County Superintendent of Schools Rocky Hanna was quick to respond.
In an interview with WTXL , Hanna stated that Corcoran’s letter is “irresponsible and premature” and that schools “should continue to take guidance from the CDC.” Hanna stressed that he would fight, stating “we’re not changing a thing now and if we end up going to court over it, we’ll go to court.”
The debate over masks is playing out across the country as COVID numbers continue to decrease and the number of vaccinations increase.
As of this week, twenty-six state governments currently require people to wear face coverings in public and 13 states that had mask mandates covering the general public have lifted them, 10 by gubernatorial order (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Texas and Wyoming), two by legislative action (Kansas and Utah) and one by court order (Wisconsin).
At their last meeting, the Leon County Commission, while still supporting the mask mandate, began to seek information about the process to repeal the ordinance requiring masks.
With regards to schools, officials across the country are making plans for the fall, and for some, masks will be optional.
In the Houston, Texas area, decisions by school districts vary from making masks optional in the fall to a wait and see approach. For example, the Clear Creek School District has a goal of making masks optional during the next school year while the Houston School District reported they have not made a decision.
Corcoran was clear in his letter that the face covering policy should be a voluntary measure for students and faculty, stating that “mandatory face covering policies inhibit peer-to-peer learning in our classrooms and they may also unintentionally create a barrier for students and families who would otherwise choose in-person instruction if such a policy were not in place.”
Corcoran also wrote that he reviewed data that showed “that districts’ face covering polices do not impact the spread of the virus,” however, he did not cite a source.
The Leon County COVID trends have been improving for months and it was recently reported that approximately 53% of LCS employees have been vaccinated. With the beginning the 2021-22 school year still four months away, their remains ample time for the numbers to change.
However, given the current trends, it appears in the coming months the debate related to masks will take a place in an environment with the impact of COVID receding.