Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
First Coast

Catholic Schools In Northeast Florida Reinstate Mask Mandate

Pope Francis puts on a face mask as he attends an inter-religious ceremony on Oct. 20, 2020.
Gregorio Borgia
/
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Pope Francis puts on a face mask as he attends an inter-religious ceremony on Oct. 20, 2020.

The Diocese of St. Augustine, which runs 40 Catholic schools in Northeast and North Central Florida, has reinstituted its mask mandate for the beginning of the school year. 

In the span of two weeks, the diocese implemented, rescinded, and then put back into place its mask mandate amid an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis and record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state.

After the St. Augustine Diocese announced its mandate on July 29, DeSantis signed his executive order the next day, threatening to defund school districts that implemented mask mandates.

The diocese, which receives millions of dollars in state funds through scholarships and vouchers for students to attend their schools, changed its policy to make masks optional under the belief that their funds could be cut or reduced under the order.

“We accept scholarship dollars from the state, and in the document there is a little ambiguity on whether or not our scholarship funding could be denied to us,” Deacon Scott Conway, superintendent of Catholic schools in the St. Augustine Diocese, said in an interview with WJCT News last Tuesday.

But in a letter to parents Monday, Aug. 9, Conway announced the “new policy, which supersedes all other policies.”

Catholic schools in the diocese are now requiring masks indoors for all employees, faculty, staff and students age 5 or older. The diocese will analyze COVID data from the Florida Department of Health weekly and allow for masks to become optional in counties with a positivity rate of 10 percent or less, and reinstitute mandates in counties where it increases beyond 10 percent.

Visitors will also be required to wear masks, and visitors in general will be limited.

The policy also strongly encourages all who are eligible to get vaccinated.

“We need to continue to pray for the end of this pandemic,” Conway said. “It will take all of us to stop the spread of this virus, and vaccinations are critical to the endeavor.”

Vaccinations can be scheduled online at vaccines.gov, where you can select the location and brand of vaccine for your appointment.