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Catholic Schools In Tampa Bay Area Institute Mask Mandates

Group of school kids with protective face masks learning on laptop with their teacher during a class in the classroom.
Pasco County Schools
The Dioceses of St. Petersburg and Venice are starting the school year with mandatory -- but temporary -- mask policies.

Temporary mandatory mask policies are now in place at schools in the dioceses of St. Petersburg and Venice — but only parents in the St. Pete diocese have an opt-out policy.

Like some of their public school counterparts, Catholic schools in the greater Tampa Bay region are putting temporary mask orders in place as classes resume this week.

According to a letter sent to parents, the 13,000 students at the 46 schools and early childhood centers the Diocese of St. Petersburg operates in five counties will have to wear masks, but parents can submit an opt-out form if they want to.

The policy, which is similar to one enacted by school districts around the state, including Hillsborough County, will remain in effect as long as a county has a weekly new case rate greater than 100 per 100,000 population and a positivity rate above 10%.

The Diocese of Venice has gone a step further and opened schools with no opt-out clause.

It's requiring masks in its 15 schools if a county has a COVID positivity rate higher than 10% — and right now, that's all 10 counties where the diocese has schools, including Sarasota and Manatee counties.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that some parents are speaking out against the policy.

But Florida GOP Chair, State Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota), is telling them that, as private schools, they can set up whatever mask policies they want.

“At private schools you have the ability to go in and go out, at public schools for a lot of people it’s their only option," Gruters told the Herald-Tribune.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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