Lake County Schools is first district in Central Florida to make masks voluntary for students, staff

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — Lake County Schools is the first district in Central Florida to make masks voluntary for students and staff, starting this summer.

During a heated school board meeting, though, some parents voiced their concerns about delaying repealing the mask policy in place.

“My 15-year-old finds it hard to concentrate with a mask on her face. She complains of headaches, her face is all broken out where the mask sits on her face all day because she is not breathing fresh air and instead breathing dirty, recycled air,” Krystal Wolfe said.

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The public comments came toward the end of Monday night’s meeting. Parents, districtwide, had already received a letter notifying them about the changes. Superintendent Diane S. Kornegay wrote, in part:

In recent days, some parents have asked for the mask mandate to be lifted in schools after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued executive orders on May 3 suspending all outstanding local COVID-19 emergency orders and related public health restrictions. The district received clarification from the Florida Department of Education explaining that the orders apply to city and county governments, but not to schools. We made a commitment to our over 40,000 students, parents and our 5,500 employees that we would keep our safety protocols in place for this year. We are going to honor that commitment and stay the course for just 19 more days. Students who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition will be released from the requirement upon completion of the attached waiver. This waiver must be signed by a medical physician, if the request is for medical reasons. Beginning on June 8, when voluntary summer programs begin, the district is planning to make masks optional for students and staff.

Cassie Kuharske told the board, “My child will not wear a mask to school anymore. They will no longer follow a policy that is harmful to their health. This is not science , this is politics; we’re no longer accepting it. There are plenty of other parents standing behind me and any harassment to my children will result in a legal fight.”

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A district spokesperson said they’re planning to work with families who are adamant about sending their children in without a mask because they don’t want to punish children for their parent’s actions.

They’ve also updated this medical waiver, and are encouraging parents who believe they have a case to get it signed by a doctor allowing their children to ditch the mask for the next 3 weeks.