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Friday, August 27, 2021

Marion County mother cites spike in cases, quarantines in request for stronger COVID-19 mitigation at schools

Among the several parents that offered their opinions in opposition to the school district’s mask mandate, one Marion County mother asked the board to do everything in their power to implement stronger COVID-19 mitigation measures. 

Renee Haney, who has two children enrolled in Marion County schools, made her comments during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Marion County School Board.

“So far, there’s almost more kids being quarantined than there are at school,” suggested Haney, who said both of her children have had to quarantine because of direct contact with another student that tested positive for COVID-19.

Renee Haney speaks at the Tuesday August 24 meeting of the Marion County School Board
Renee Haney speaks at the Tuesday, August 24 meeting of the Marion County School Board

“Today, my daughter got sent home, her whole class got sent home because somebody tested positive,” said Haney. Last year, she says her son was “quarantined for two weeks” and fell behind in his classes as a result. 

Despite multiple other parents deriding the mask mandate during the meeting, Haney said she wanted to stand up for those in favor of the mandate.

“I’m just here trying to stand up for all the parents that do want to require all the kids to wear masks, if we can…because last year, I do think it made a big difference. There seemed to be a lot less spreading of the virus,” said Haney.

According to the most recent data released by the district, 387 positive cases of COVID-19 were reported during the second week of school, and over 2,000 students and faculty had to to be quarantined as a result of direct contact with those who tested positive.

During Tuesday’s meeting, multiple parents were vehement in their condemnation of the mask mandate, with one parent labeling the masks as “muzzles.”

Last week, school board members voted to implement a resolution to enforce a mask mandate with an opt-out clause around the county. 

Around 15% of students, or about 6,336, have face covering opt-outs on file with Marion County Public Schools.

The most recent figures from the Florida Department of Health show that Marion County is still in the midst of its highest recorded COVID-19 breakout, averaging over 405 new cases a day and a 30% positivity rate. 

The county has added vaccination and testing opportunities in recent weeks, but children under the age of 12 are still not eligible to receive any of the vaccines available.

Haney said that until all children can be immunized through the vaccine, the best way to keep the numbers in line is to keep mitigation measures in place and evaluate in the future.

“Hopefully, pretty soon the younger kids will have the opportunity to get the vaccination and then hopefully things will start to get a little better.”