As of Monday, Nov. 1, OCPS students can once again opt out of wearing a mask to school with just a parent note. From Aug. 30 to Oct. 30, students needed a doctor’s note affirming that not wearing a mask was medically necessary.
The school board allowed their 60 day mask mandate to expire with no extension, citing a drop in COVID-19 cases. On Sept. 7, cases among students in OCPS peaked at 491. Now, the number of cases has sunk to 15 as of Nov. 3. Additionally, COVID positivity rates hovered around 3.5% for the past two weeks, a number that sits below the World Health Organization’s benchmark of 5% for keeping the virus under control.
“After speaking with local medical advisers and board members, noting the significant reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases in Orange County, and hearing Mayor (Jerry) Demings announce the end of his local emergency order, Superintendent Jenkins determined not to extend the face mask mandate for students,” an official OCPS statement said.
The debate between more stringent and more relaxed mask policies has proved contentious in the district and across the state. Recently, Gov. DeSantis’ threats of decreased funding for schools who implemented a mask mandate came to fruition, as the OCPS school board members lost a month of their salaries.
Now, the school board is once again in compliance with state guidelines prohibiting mask mandates, but they continue to recommend that children wear masks.
“We also have the ability … to add a statement on behalf of the board and in light of the CDC guidance: ‘The School Board of OCPS does recommend that parents of children not vaccinated for COVID consider having their child use a face covering at school and on the bus,’” OCPS Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said.
Employees and visitors on campus still have to wear masks, a policy that is expected to remain until Dec. 3.