After one week of school, Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna decided to remove the optional mask opt-out policy due to high positive COVID-19 cases. Instead, he put in place a mandatory mask mandate for students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.
During an Aug. 22 LCS Facebook Live press event, Hanna announced the new temporary policy along with his reasoning.
“The numbers speak for themselves; it’s time to make a change,” Hanna said. “The goal is to keep our schools open. However, if we continue down this path, I’m afraid we will have to look at other options, and the last thing I want to do is close our schools. Therefore, we are returning to our original plan temporarily requiring masks for students K-8.”
Shanola Norton, a radiology technician at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and mother of four attending LCS, supports Hanna’s mask mandate.
“I feel like Hanna made a good decision about the mask mandate,” Norton said. “I feel that the mask will help slow down the virus plus with other measurements like wiping down the classroom, doing block schedule and proper hand-washing. I’m a firm believer it takes a village to raise a child.
“Since the cut back of mask mandate, I noticed that people have been a little lazier with the six-feet rule, not using hand sanitizer as much and not wearing a mask in the store. If the health care workers at TMH and our doctors are still requiring a mask when entering the building and our numbers in the hospital with the employees and staff are not rising, then the hospitals must be doing something right. We have to not only worry about ourselves be others too,” she added.
According to Hanna, the mask mandate — which a Florida circuit court judge supported on Friday — is to ensure the safety of students since they are not eligible to be vaccinated and remain the most vulnerable.
Tyiana White, a mother of a 5-year-old girl attending LCS, believes that the mask mandate is necessary.
“To hear the news that masks are going to be mandatory for K-8 is relieving,” White said. “That was a great decision made by Rocky Hanna and Leon County School Board. Before the announcement, I had so much anxiety and feared that my child and other children could be exposed to COVID-19. I understand that wearing a mask isn’t the end all be all, but I strongly believe that it’s a simple step to reduce the spread.”
According to Hanna, LCS has recorded hundreds of positive COVID cases, nearly one-third of the total cases last year, with over 900 students in quarantine.
Carrie Edgerson, a mother, enrolled her daughter in virtual school due to COVID-19. With the mask mandate in place, she feels a sense of hope for her daughter returning to LCS school in the future.
“I definitely feel a little more hopeful since the mask mandate was placed because it shows that Leon County Schools is concerned about the safety of our children and stopping the spread of the virus,” Edgerson said.