Volusia County students return to school with new mask mandate in place

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Thousands of Volusia County students returned to school Monday with a new mask mandate in place.

The district initially started the school year with an optional mask policy. However, citing concerns over rising COVID numbers, the school board voted to make them mandatory with exemptions for medical reasons.

READ: CDC study: Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die of COVID-19

The school district doesn’t have a running total of the number of students who have opted out of the policy, but a spokesperson says it varies from zero to no more than five at any given school.

The district says students who refuse to wear a mask will have their parents called to pick them up.

“We really haven’t seen anything that’s escalated to the level of violence,” Volusia County Schools spokeswoman Kelly Schulz said. “We’ve had a few angry parents throughout the day today at a handful of schools.”

READ: Baby among latest COVID-19 deaths reported in Orange County

In its first two weeks, the school district reported 824 COVID-19 cases among students, compared to 87 in the first two weeks of school last year when masks were mandatory.

“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and for her, she does it, no problem,” parent Leondre Smith said.

Other parents complained that the school district’s decision defied Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning schools from mandating masks without the chance to opt out, and the recent Parents Bill of Rights passed by the legislature.

READ: Group of scientists say no need for boosters for the general population yet

Some parents also thought it might change after a court ruling Friday that allowed the Governor’s ban on mask mandates to remain in effect.

The school board will discuss the mandate again at its next meeting Tuesday, which could result in another policy shift for parents, teachers, and students to navigate.

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