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Lake County board approves mask mandate with opt-out, but only for schools where 5% have COVID-19

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The Lake County School Board approved a mask mandate on Thursday with a parental opt-out, but the mandate is only for schools where at least five percent of staff and students test positive for COVID-19 in the previous two weeks.

The district’s targeted mask mandate comes after several meetings with debate and passionate public comment.

The policy starts Monday based on data from the previous two weeks.

The Lake County School Board approved a targeted mask mandate with an opt-out on Thursday. Photo: LCS via Facebook

Currently, seven schools meet the criteria. They are Treadway Elementary (8.27%), Umatilla Middle (7.01%), Umatilla Elementary (6.88%), Eustis Middle (6.83%), Mount Dora Middle (6.41%), Seminole Springs Elementary (6%) and Umatilla High (5.05%).

The percentage of positive tests is not the same as test positivity — the measure used by the Health Department and CDC to gauge community spread. The district can’t calculate that, because school officials don’t have information on negative tests.

The actual test positivity rate would be much higher at those schools, because the percentage it’s measured against all students and staff, not just those who were tested.

Superintendent Diane Kornegay had proposed a targeted mandate with no parental opt-out if state law allows. But the board voted 4-1 to ensure parents could say no.

School Board chair Bill Mathias praised her solution targeting the sickest schools.

“Out of 67 districts where it was a mask mandate or not, that really taking this and let’s look at schools individually, let’s accept the communities as they are, and let’s take action where it’s needed,” he said at Thursday’s meeting. “Well done. Very well done.”

Board member Kristi Burns argued for a broader mask mandate, citing soaring cases and pleas from doctors and principals. She thanked those who supported her.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t help your children more,” Burns said. “I tried really frickin hard.”



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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.