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Orange County Schools Urge Families to Send Their Kids to Class Wearing Face Masks

Supt. Barbara Jenkins says masks are an additional layer of protection that just helps everyone. Photo: Brittany Caldwell
Supt. Barbara Jenkins says masks are an additional layer of protection that just helps everyone. Photo: Brittany Caldwell

Orange County Public School officials continue to urge parents to send their students to school in face masks ahead of the first day of school next week. 

Superintendent Barbara Jenkins says it is not the district’s intention to oppose the governor’s order banning face mask mandates in school. 

But Jenkins repeatedly recommended that students mask up this year whether they have been vaccinated or not. 

“We are strongly encouraging the wearing of face masks. Can’t say that enough. It’s not mandatory at this point due to the governor’s executive order but we’re strongly encouraging wearing a face mask."

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Department of Health Epidemiology Manager Alvina Chu echoed Jenkins. Chu says it’s safest to come to school in a facial covering.

“But we encourage parents to make the choice to have their children wear their masks while they’re in school in addition to the other pandemic precautions that we’ve recommended which is the physical distancing. So observing physical distancing between students and persons. Students and staff.”

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With cases in children rising, Chu says they’ll continue contact tracing at K-12 schools this year.

She says they will prioritize school-age children, those who are over 65, and those who are medically vulnerable. 

"We recently reported the highest number of cases ever on July 29th. And this week was the highest number of cases ever reported in a week."

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OCPS will continue to deep-clean surfaces and promote social distancing to stop the spread.

And regardless of what parents decide to do when it comes to face masks, Superintendent Barbara Jenkins wants parents to know that the district is making safety a priority.

"I would tell them this board and my administration are absolutely committed to doing everything within our power to keep our children and our employees safe."

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No mask mandate has been decided for OCPS students at this time. Only two districts in the state in Alachua and Duval counties have mandates in place in contradiction to state law. 

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.