Changes to mask rule could benefit Leon County School Board

Photo courtesy: Leon County Schools website

Superintendent Rocky Hanna made changes to the mask mandate, placing the district in compliance with the state’s emergency rule. This change may possibly help Leon County School Board members receive their salaries again.

The new rule allows students who are asymptomatic to no longer be required to wear a mask, teachers to only wear masks “when appropriate,” and mentors and volunteers to be required to wear a mask on campus.

Back in October, Hanna made the first few changes to the mask rule. The medical opt-out rule for grades K-8 was dropped. Students will now need parental consent, rather than a doctor’s note, if they wish to be excused from masks. Some of the county’s board members did not agree with this new rule. Members of the board were concerned with COVID cases.

Although a few members were not too confident about the new rules, Hanna believed it was a step towards the right direction.

“I believe dropping the medical opt-requirement is a big leap towards change,” said Hanna.

On Oct. 15, the commissioner of Florida Education, Richard Corcoran, decided to withhold all salaries of Leon County School Board Members. Corcoran made the decision to strip salaries because the members were out of compliance. This action was supposed to get members to comply.

Florida’s Department of Education plans to withhold salaries every month until the board decides to comply with the new emergency rule. Each month, the department would roughly be withholding $17,000 in total from employees.

Corcoran sent out a letter announcing details about the withdrawal. Board member Alva Striplin took to Facebook saying that she lost her salary, however she chooses to focus on the good.

“Rates are down in our community significantly, our schools are open, and our children are learning and laughing in-person with their friends,” said Striplin.

Since Hanna has made new adjustments to the mask mandate, it is possible that the members’ salaries may be reinstated. If not reinstated, members could be paid the portion of their salary that was deducted. The decision on whether this will happen is still up for questioning.

The new changes Hanna made were based on the local COVID-19 data. Self-reported positive COVID tests have decreased in the district over the last few days.

“This virus is still out there, but has really dropped off the map,” said Assistant Superintendent Alan Cox.

The Florida Department of Health is being ruled in court by six other school districts besides Leon County. Other districts include Broward, Duval, and Alachua County. A judge has read all cases regarding the mask mandate and is supposed to rule by November 5.