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Saturday, January 15, 2022

Marion County school officials give more information on mask mandate with opt-out clause

Marion County Public Schools released more information on the new mask mandate resolution this afternoon, a day after school board officials voted to implement the mandate with an opt-out clause beginning Thursday. 

“Students and employees of Marion County Public Schools must wear face coverings on school property when they cannot safely social distance or if they have not opted out,” reads the press release from MCPS. It says that students may opt out with parental permission, while employees may opt out with a documented medical condition. 

The resolution applies to all school property including classrooms, cafeterias, auditoriums, buses, and Marion AfterSchool Programs, among other events. Indoor events such as extra-curricular activities require masks for adults and visitors. Students and employees must wear them unless they have opted out. The resolution does not apply to physical education, recess, outside learning, and dining, among other outdoor activities. Face covering “break areas” will also be available to all students. 

“Refusal to comply with the face covering resolution could result in a dress code infraction for students and discipline for employees,” reads the release. 

For those students wishing to opt-out, the county has made opt-out forms available through the Marion County Public Schools website.

“Regardless, the district continues stressing the importance of staying home if students or employees are sick or waiting on COVID-19 test results,” reads the release. 

Marion County School Board members approved the new face covering resolution by a 3-1 vote during an emergency meeting on Monday, August 16. According to the board, the measure is meant to reduce community spread of COVID-19 and the number of people impacted. 

“The specific resolution language is still being prepared and will remain in place until the local positivity rate and rate of new cases per 100,000 persons (as reported by the Centers for Disease Control) declines to the ‘substantial’ level or lower for at least two weeks,” reads the release.

Currently, the latest figures show Marion County has a 27.4% COVID-19 positivity rate and is recording an average of 373 new cases every day. 

Last week, the school district reported 139 COVID-19 cases, with 531 direct contacts requiring quarantine. Over 450 of those direct contacts were students.

“The district will monitor this in partnership with the Florida Department of Health in Marion County,” says the release. 

The form will also be emailed via Skylert messaging, linked on Twitter, and posted electronically in Family Access accounts. 

The release indicates that schools are receiving supplies of disposable paper masks that will be replenished “as needed.” Students visiting school health clinics will be required to wear masks while in the clinic.