Marion County school board member urges district to edit mask policy after employee COVID-19 deaths

MARION COUNTY, Fla. — After the COVID-19 related deaths of four employees, a Marion County school board member is asking the district to reconsider its optional face mask policy.

“We’re gambling with people’s lives right now,” school board member Rev. Eric Cummings said.

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In Thursday’s work session, Cummings launched another impassioned plea to add an opt-out clause to the district’s current mask optional policy.

His plea comes after bus driver Kevin Clayton and elementary school teacher Lynn Peterson died from complications of COVID-19 this week and custodian Gloria Robinson and teacher Jose Rivera died from the virus the last week of July.

“I think we need to do something to try to help mitigate this down back down to where we were to prior to making that decision,” Cummings said.

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Cummings said he’d like to see the district simply follow the same workarounds to the governor’s order preventing mask mandates that other districts are doing, allowing parents to choose whether to mask their kids in class.

“How many more are we going to have to lose before we do something? Even if we make mask mandatory for our staff members, that would be something,” Cummings said.

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In past work sessions, board members acknowledged a willingness to change course on the mask policy if needed, but there’s been no vote as of yet.

Cummings said he’s simply asking for a temporary change in light of the lives lost, and hopes it comes sooner than later.

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“I think we need to temporarily back up and make some hard decisions and do what we need to do for our staff and those kids,” he said.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.