FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The Broward County School Board has voted to no longer require face coverings from high school students, staff and visitors.
The change to Broward County high school will go into effect on Monday. While it will no longer be mandatory, school board members still strongly encourage wearing masks on campus.
“However, if someone comes to school without a mask, there will be no consequences to that,” said Broward County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright.
“In our Center Schools, where we have a large number of our children with special needs, we will continue to mandate the masks in those environments,” said School Board Chair Dr. Rosalind Osgood.
The school board pointed to Broward County’s positivity rate falling below 3% for the past 10 days as the reasoning behind their decision. Data released on Friday showed a seven-day average of 2.9%.
The final vote on the matter was 5-3 in favor.
“I’ve been making this decision based on what I would do with my own kids,” said Osgood. “I feel the same way about everybody else, these kids, as I feel about my own.”
School members said the mask mandate will remain in place at the county’s elementary and middle schools, at least until vaccines become available for that age group.
“Our little ones, our 5-year-olds to 11-year-olds, they don’t have that choice yet, and so our board is taking the steps in order to ensure that we’re providing that protective environment for them,” said Cartwright.
Quarantine protocol will remain the same, meaning that anyone exposed to COVID-19 only has to quarantine for three days and can return to school with a negative rapid test and are asymptomatic on the fourth day.
Osgood said they’re trying to do their best to keep everyone safe.
“I think our leadership in this space has resulted in saving lives and protecting the people of Broward County,” she said. “For me, I can’t go from one extreme to the other. It has to be gradual.”
Not everyone was happy with the board’s decision.
“Imagine somebody telling you that you don’t get to decide what to do for your own child, because that’s what you all sit here and think: that you’re better than us as parents and can make a better decision,” said parent Jana Hagan.
Osgood said this situation continues to be fluid and is subject to change.
“We have to continue to monitor, and if we see positivity rates increasing — because we do have different variants that have come into play now — then we will have another conversation, and we will have to respond adequately in that way,” she said.
School board members said they will reassess their recommendation if the positivity rate in Broward goes above 5% for 10 consecutive days.
“COVID has impacted all our families, and it’s impacted mine personally, my inability to see my parents in a nursing home, friends that I know have passed because of it,” said Broward School Board Member Donna Korn. “It has impacted so many families. The decision that we make here impacts our students, those students’ families, our employees. It’s just far-reaches.”
The district has already incurred fines of more than half a million dollars for violating the state’s anti-mask mandate.
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