Duval Schools employees will be required to wear masks for the next 30 days — but students will not.
In a letter sent to district staff Friday afternoon and obtained by WJCT News, Superintendent Diana Greene announced that starting Monday, Aug. 2, district employees, vendors and visitors will all be required to wear masks.
“Sadly, our own DCPS family has been tragically impacted by the loss of several employees over the past two weeks. Morally, I simply cannot enter another school year without ensuring every reasonable precaution is being taken to ensure the safety of our students, employees and our community. I have concluded that to best protect our students and employees, a temporary mask requirement for all district employees is needed immediately,” Greene wrote.
Greene said the policy is necessary as COVID-19 numbers continue to soar, and she realized the new policy would not be well received by all employees.
“While as an organization, we strive to create environments where individuals’ positions are considered and valued, there are times when all other factors are usurped by the basic requirement to ensure students and employees remain safe,” she wrote.
She also said in the letter that the district would have imposed the same 30-day mandate for Duval students, but an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis will keep the district's hands tied. DeSantis announced Friday that he intended to ban district-level mask mandates for students to "protect parents’ right to make decisions regarding masking of their children in relation to COVID-19."
The governor's executive order signed Friday afternoon said:
"I hereby direct the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Education, working together, to immediately execute rules pursuant to section 120.54, Florida Statutes, and take any additional agency action necessary, using all legal means available, to ensure safety protocols for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in schools that:
- Do not violate Floridians’ constitutional freedoms;
- Do not violate parents’ right under Florida law to make health care decisions for their minor children; and
- Protect children with disabilities or health conditions who would be harmed by certain protocols such as face masking requirements."
Greene wrote, “Had it not been for this announcement, this 30-day mandate would be applied to all PreK-12 students as well and would extend for elementary students when indoors until such time as vaccinations are readily available and families can elect to have their student vaccinated. While I can not require the wearing of masks, we will continue to strongly encourage students to wear facial coverings when indoors.”
Following the initial 30-day period, masks will be optional for district and school-based employees. Employees with a documented medical condition prohibiting the wearing of cloth facial coverings can request an exemption.