MIAMI (WSVN) - Miami-Dade County Public Schools is dropping its mask mandate for students in middle and high school.

“High school and middle school students in traditional middle schools, as well as employees in those schools and non-school sites, will be able to opt-out of wearing facial coverings,” the district said in a press release.

The new policy goes into effect on Tuesday.

M-DCPS Superintendent Alberto Carvalho addressed the change in protocols, Monday afternoon.

“We have been and continue to be and will always be a system informed not by opinion but by the expertise of public health officials and medical experts,” he said.

Parents who want to opt their children out of the mandate must complete a form and return it to their child’s school. The forms can be picked up at the student’s school. The form can also be found at the end of this article.

“On the basis of significantly improved health conditions, not only in our community but also in our schools,” said Carvalho.

The district cites recent COVID-related metrics that allowed for the relaxation of the protocols, in particular the number of cases in the community per 100,000 residents.

“That metric was reduced to 71.9 cases per 100,000,” said Carvalho. “Our commitment was that this metric would need to be stable below 100 per 100,000 for two consecutive weeks. As of this weekend, we have fully met this last criteria.”

The school district has also been monitoring declining hospitalizations and an increase in vaccinations in addition to low case counts within Miami-Dade schools.

Despite the major change, some students said they plan to keep covering up.

“I just feel more comfortable with it, and if someone has COVID, I would still be safe,” said student Daniel Reynoso.

“Just for my safety, and obviously other students,’ but it doesn’t really, like, affect me in any bad ways,” said middle school student Lucas Hantman

The news was met with mixed reaction from parents.

“I think that, at that age, they’re pretty responsible, and hopefully, they can make some responsible decisions on – if they feel comfortable,” said parent Claudia Reynoso.

“I would prefer until they mandate the vaccine, and you have to have the vaccine to go to school, but in the meantime, yeah, keep the mask on until everybody has the option to be vaccinated,” said parent Marinelly Maldonado.

Fully vaccinated employees who work in either middle or high schools, or at an off-school site, can also opt out of wearing masks.

“We hope to come back to you within a week or so with another batch of data that will put us in a position in making decisions regarding our elementary-age students and those who attend K-8 centers,” said Carvalho.

M-DCPS mentioned that while they are relaxing guidelines, the CDC continues to recommend universal masking in schools, regardless of vaccination status.

The district also said it will continue to “follow science, consult with medical experts, and review its procedures on a weekly basis” to find other opportunities for further relaxed protocols. However, they cautioned that if there is a resurgence in the number of COVID-positive cases, they may again enforce stricter guidelines.

Monday afternoon, Karla Hernández-Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade, issued a statement that reads in part, “We thank all the faculty, staff, and parents who have collectively helped us get to this point. This is a step in the right direction as we continue to utilize the various mitigation protocols in use.”

This move comes after Broward County Public Schools dropped the mask mandate for its high school students last week.

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