TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – We are hearing from parents after the Hillsborough County School Board decided to change the district’s mask policy on Tuesday.
The board voted to remove the medical opt-out requirement, and now all parents have to do is fill out a form saying their child does not have to wear a mask at school.READ MORE: Supply Chain Issues: 'There Really Are Problems Everywhere,' Even For Small Companies
The district says the change was made because the COVID-19 positivity and quarantine rates have decreased significantly since the beginning of the school year. The district’s COVID-19 dashboard shows 733 students and staff are either in quarantine or isolation right now, much lower than the roughly 12,000 at the end of August.
Brooke Elkins has two children in Hillsborough County Schools, and says the district’s decision was a step in the wrong direction.
“I fear we are going to be back to square one if we remove these masks,” said Elkins. “As a mom, especially with one child not vaccinated due to age, it’s worrisome,” she said.
She says not only is she worried about her children being exposed and bringing home COVID-19, she’s also worried that without a strict mask mandate, teachers will get sick and her children’s education will suffer.
“And what is my kid doing during class? Oh it’s a movie day, or it’s a sub or it’s a teacher covering a class who doesn’t know what it is that they are covering,” said Elkins.READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Is Another Relief Payment Coming Soon?
The school board says it made it’s decision on Tuesday based on lower COVID-19 rates in the district, but Elkins says there’s more to it.
“Our school board continues to put money before our kid’s best interest,” she said.
The district received a letter from the State Department of Education saying Hillsborough County Schools violated the governor’s executive order, requiring districts to allow parents to decide whether or not their child wears a mask to school. Previously the district had a mask mandate with a medical opt-out. But after receiving this letter threatening to take money away from school board members and the district for violating the law, that medical-opt-out was removed.
Candi Saphore, another parent says “I think it was a good move, I think this medical freedom is a parent’s responsibility, solely their responsibility. No school board, no educational system should make those decisions.”
The district is now saying if parents want to opt their child out of wearing a mask, all they have to do is fill out a form, something Saphore, says will help student’s learning experience.
“Children just need to be able to be in your face, I know that sounds terrible, but they just need to be one on one, to be able to touch you and talk to you, and feel like there’s a connection. Sometimes, I know it sounds crazy, but if they can’t really see your whole face, that connection isn’t as thick as it should be,” said Saphore.MORE NEWS: ZooTampa Starts Giving Animals COVID-19 Vaccine
The new mandate goes into effect on Thursday. The district says it will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases as the school year continues.