SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — School leaders late Tuesday voted 3-2 to extend the face mask policy through the end of the school year -- June 2021.
The previous story is below.
Today is a big day in Sarasota County as parents wait to find out the fate of the face mask policy in schools.
The district’s school board will decide whether to continue requiring face masks in schools or not. If approved, both students and staff will be required to wear masks in the classroom through June 2021.
If they opt-out of it, they’ll be the first county in Tampa Bay to do so.
As the policy stands now, all staff and students must wear face masks while on campus and school busses. There are some exceptions to wearing a mask, including medical reasons, during breakfast or lunchtimes, and when outdoors and socially distanced.
“There’s opportunities throughout the day for the kids to have what we call mask breaks too,” Booker Elementary teacher Makaya Moran said.
The face mask requirements in schools have caused some pushback from parents.
Parents who are anti-mask have raised more than $11,000 through a GoFundMe page to sue the school district. They are demanding that face masks be optional, not mandated in schools.
“I don’t need the school board to be telling me how to take care of our family. It should be up to the individual,” said Alexis Spiegelman, a parent in favor of doing away with mask requirements in schools.
She has a stepdaughter in the 8th grade in the school district.
“People should be allowed to do what they want to do,” Spiegelman said. “We live in America, it’s a free country.”
Concerned parents on the other end of this battle want the mask policy to continue out of safety for not only the students but teachers and the families they go home to.
“We believe that government and civic boards that oversee various aspects of public life have the right to make decisions that help protect the health and safety of citizens; we stand in support of the School Board and hope and expect that they will continue the mask mandate,” Sharon Kunkel said.
Kunkel is one of many concerned parents begging the school board to vote in favor of continuing the requirement of masks in schools.
“With the county still in the grips of the pandemic, and numbers sharply rising again in many parts of the country, it simply makes no sense to change course on face coverings,” Kunkel said.
She and other parents in this coalition say they are following the science.
“We may not have matching T-shirts, but what we do have is a belief in science, medicine, public health recommendations and available data, all of which affirm the necessity of continuing the mask mandate in schools if the spread of the virus is to be at all contained,” Kunkel said.
Parents on both sides of this issue tell 10 Tampa Bay they plan to be at the board meeting to make their voices heard.
“I’m not going to just quit, I’m going to fight against it,” Spiegelman said.
“We'll be wearing white and standing peacefully with our signs, letting the community know that we are concerned with the health and safety of our kids as well as of teachers and school employees,” Kunkel said.
During a school board workshop this morning, prior to their meeting the majority of the board were in favor of continuing the mask policy.
"I have no desire to make any changes to this policy. I have no desire to discuss it any further," School Board Member Jane Goodwin said to start the discussion.
"I have talked to the union, and talked to other people in the community and we would lose our teachers day one if we do not have a mandatory mask guideline," Goodwin continued.
Caroline Zucker and Shirley Brown agree.
"I think what's weighing my decision mostly is what I'm hearing from the CDC and the department of health that masks are helping," Brown said.
She says the board plans to put the safety and health of students and teachers above everything else.
"It's not politics, it's student safety," Brown said.