Orange County School Board opts to keep masks optional for the fall, mandate still possible

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The Orange County School Board chose not to reinstate a mask mandate for the upcoming school year.

The decision comes despite new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday, recommending masks for everyone indoors at K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status.

READ: 9 things you need to know about the COVID-19 delta variant

However, OCPS officials say they’re leaving their options open leading up to the first day of classes.

Parents lined up at Tuesday’s board meeting, calling on school leaders to reinstate the mandate they voted down at the last meeting just two weeks ago.

“Listen to science,” one parent urged.

“The situation was bad two weeks ago, but it’s even worse now,” another said.

READ: Orange County Tax Collector standing behind decision to require COVID vaccines for employees

Others spoke out in opposition to another mask mandate, arguing masks aren’t adequate protection against COVID-19.

“It’s like putting up a chain-link fence to keep mosquitos out.”

After learning that more than 100 local kids have been hospitalized by COVID-19 this month, board members began to favor a mandate.

“If this were my decision alone, I would have a mandate in place,” Board Chair Teresa Jacobs said.

“I just don’t want to put our community back into an isolation mode too soon or too late,” Vice Chair Pam Gould added.

READ: Doctors push for Florida to resume daily COVID-19 reports

While face coverings will remain optional for now, Superintendent Barbara Jenkins has the ability  to reinstate the mandate at her discretion, which could happen at any time.

Board members said they want daily case updates from the Department of Health and weekly updates from local hospitals on COVID trends in the area.