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Marion County schools push back start of in-person classes, require masks

Most parents with kids in Marion County public schools want to send their children to school during the pandemic. Image: MCPS

With COVID-19 cases rising by more than a hundred every day, Marion County has pushed back the start of on-campus classes at least two weeks to Aug. 24th.

Also on Thursday, the School Board agreed to require face coverings on school property.

Students won’t have to wear the face shields or masks when they can keep social distancing like, possibly, in the classroom. And there are other exceptions for health conditions, disability, eating, exercise and athletics.

Superintendent Diane Gullett says the children will adapt to wearing masks.

“I found students painting and decorating their masks and laughing about, How do I get to do that, too? And they’re starting to feel comfortable with it,” she said.

Just how Marion County will start the school year is complicated.

And Deputy Superintendent Mark Vianello says quarantine rules could end up forcing many to stay home.

The district is seeing that challenge already with only a thousand kids in summer school.

“We have I believe the number is 21 students over the course of our first three days of summer recovery that have been sent home,” he said. “Now if those individuals don’t go to their physician they are out for the remainder of summer recovery.”

Marion County public school parents have been asked to choose between in-person and online classes. So far, 61 percent will be sending their kids to school.

Now the district could start them all off with online classes on Aug. 10th and open the schools two weeks later.

The School Board couldn’t agree on that. It will tackle the issue again next Thursday.

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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.