Marion County School Board approves student mask mandate with opt-out
The Marion County School Board voted Monday to require students to wear face coverings unless a parent or guardian opts out.
This temporary mandate -- for up to 90 days -- comes after 139 staff and students were positive for COVID-19 last week and more than 500 were in quarantine.
The School Board held the emergency meeting as cases and quarantines threatened school operations and staffing for bus routes.
Board member Eric Cummings had been pushing for the mandate for weeks, citing four recent employee deaths and high positivity rates.
"Three family members with covid since Friday," Cummings said. "One since I've been sitting here. I just got the text since I've been sitting here, another one. So that's four family members with covid. That's not the school district's fault. That's because people in society are not taking this thing as serious as it needs to be."
Now two other members have joined Cummings in supporting the mandate.
One of them, Kelly King, says they received a "gentle nudge" from members of the medical community.
"Our goal is to keep our schools open," she said. "And right now, if we keep doing what we're doing right now, our schools will not be open and our students will not be getting an education."
As an example, one board member cited St. John Lutheran School in Ocala. The private school was closed on Monday due to COVID-19.