DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. — (Note: The video above is from a previous report.)
Duval County Public Schools' new mask mandate has cut down significantly on the number of students who have opted out of wearing a face covering on campus within the first week of enforcement, new numbers show.
According to the school district, 206 medical opt-outs have been filed by families and granted out of the nearly 104,000 brick-and-mortar students. Students attending Duval Virtual Instruction Academy or a charter school within Duval County are not counted in this figure.
Separately, six of Duval County's nearly 21,000 charter school students have returned opt-out paperwork, though charter schools are not required to honor the district's mask mandate and COVID-19 policies vary by school. It's not clear which charter schools are requiring opt-outs at this time.
Duval Schools' new mask mandate:What you need to know
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Before mask mandate, about 12 percent of Duval students opted out
Until the School Board's stricter policy went into effect this week, about 12 percent of in-person Duval Schools students had opted out of wearing a mask, records show. Now less than 1 percent of the student body has permission to be unmasked.
The new policy — which requires a form that's signed by a healthcare provider detailing a medical, physical or psychological need to not wear a mask in order to opt-out versus the original paperwork that only required a parent or guardian's signature — went into effect on Tuesday.
There is no deadline to turn in mask opt-out paperwork; however, if a student does not wear a mask on campus without filed permission, they can receive infraction referrals that increase in severity based on the number of violations.
At a School Board meeting Tuesday, parents spoke about the difficulties that come with finding a pediatrician who will willingly sign the required paperwork. Local doctors' call for a universal mask policy in Duval Schools played a large role in the decision to add teeth to its existing policy.
The new policy comes on the heels of Duval Schools surpassing the 2,000 COVID-19 case mark this school year, a milestone that took nearly a whole school year to hit last year.
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