This school year, parents will be able to transfer their children to another school or district if they don’t want their children to participate in a district’s mask mandate.By Casey Albritton

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – This school year, parents will be able to transfer their children to another school or district if they don’t want their children to participate in a district’s mask mandate.

Friday morning the Florida Department of Education held an emergency meeting and approved a scholarship that will pay for students to transfer.

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Earlishia Oates, a parent with Hillsborough County Schools says “I understand options, so I get that part but it’s really scary.”

Damaris Bridges, another parent with Hillsborough County Schools says “I’m concerned that they are only thinking about one group of parent’s choice, because that’s the way it seems to be leaning.”

Both Bridges and Oates are parents in Hillsborough County Schools, and say they are worried the new policy will cause some issues.

“I have concerns about it taking away much needed funding from our already starved public schools,” said Bridges.

At Friday morning’s emergency meeting, the Florida Department of Education voted to allow parents with concerns about mask-related harassment to take advantage of the hope scholarship program. The scholarship in past years has been used to pay for a student who has been bullied to transfer to another school or district, but it’s something Oates says shouldn’t used in response to COVID-19 policies.

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“For families with kids who have disabilities or 504’s. I really think that’s a bad option, especially because the kid might not be able to get all the accommodations they need to be successful,” said Oates.

The new scholarship change comes after Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order last Friday saying parents have the right to decide whether or not students can wear masks. Ben Gibson, a member of the state board of education had this to say during the emergency meeting.

“It’s prioritizing parental choice. If you’re going to have a mask requirement, then parents have to have the ability to opt out,” said Gibson.

Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said on Friday that he wants as many kids to say in the district as possible and for the time being, he will continue only recommending students wear masks. Meanwhile, Bridges says she thinks the option for students to leave the district will hurt the public school system.

“It’s important to recognize that schools that are based in the community, they fuel the community, right. They tend to be the center of the community. That’s where kids find their friends and you meet neighbors and build relationships,” said Bridges.

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Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis says he will continue to look at the case numbers and change policies if needed.