© 2021 All Rights reserved WUSF
News, Jazz, NPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Education
News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida and WUSF can help. Our responsibility at WUSF News is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Manatee School District Approves Mask Mandate With Opt-Out Clause

School board member Gina Messenger wears a red shirt and mask at the school board meeting 8-16
Manatee County Schools
/
Manatee school board member Gina Messenger and Chad Choate, who was appointed to the board by Governor Ron DeSantis, voted against the policy.

The policy lasts through Aug. 25, and will be considered again at a school board meeting next week.

The Manatee County School Board on Monday approved a mask mandate with an opt-out provision, after the district counted as many coronavirus cases in the first week of school as it had in the first two months last year.

"We've got some really serious things going on in schools, and I don't think anyone can doubt that,” said school board member Mary Foreman, urging the board to act because of the highly contagious delta variant.

"This is a different virus, guys. This is way more contagious and it is spreading, so we have to do something that is going to make a change."

Manatee School Board member Mary Foreman wears a black mask and shirt at the school board meeting
SCREENSHOT: Manatee School Board
Manatee School Board member Mary Foreman was among the majority that voted for the mask policy.

After hours of debate and public comment, the board narrowly voted for the mask mandate, 3-2.

It applies to all students and staff on campus, lasting only through Aug. 25.

Board member Gina Messenger was among two that voted against the policy change, but she issued a personal plea to parents.

"Please, I am asking our adults to get vaccinated because what is happening right now is adults and children are bringing it into our schools,” Messenger said.

The policy abides by Florida state law, allowing parents to make the final decision and “opt-out” from the mandate.

Hillsborough County has a similar policy, and district officials there say about 14% of parents have signed a form to say their children do not need to wear a mask.

A graph showing projected and reported cases, modeled by the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute, shows cases peaking in August and beginning a sharp descent in September.
SCREENSHOT: Manatee County Schools
A graph showing projected and reported cases, modeled by the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute, shows cases peaking in August and beginning a sharp descent in September.

Unlike some other area counties, Manatee is not reporting how many children and staff are in quarantine due to exposure to the coronavirus.

The Manatee School district reported close to 200 cases in the first week of school — about the number reported in the first two months of last year.

WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.