Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
August 13, 2021

 

As we begin the 2021-2022 school year, the wearing of masks by students and staff will be recommended and highly encouraged, but not mandated, when social distancing cannot be maintained or in mixed groups of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
The need for wearing masks will continue to be evaluated.
Dr. Kathy Burns, District Superintendent
excerpted from 2021-22 “Return to School Safety Protocols,” August 2, 2021

 

More than 50 people attended the Nassau County School Board (NCSB) regular meeting on August 12, 2021.  While concerns over bus routes and budgets are generally high on the radar this time of year, meeting attendees were virtually unanimous in voicing their concerns over one matter:  face masks in schools to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus.   Seventeen speakers — including 4 medical doctors — urged the NCSB and Superintendent Dr. Kathy Burns to update its policy of “highly encouraging” face masks to mandating face masks for students, teachers and support staff.

Dr. Burns, NCSB Chair Dr. Donna Martin, and NCSB Attorney Brett Steger all spoke to the genesis of the current policy (stated in the introduction to this article) and discussed how and how not the policy might be amended to address safety concerns while not running afoul of the Governor’s Executive Order which prohibits local  school districts from infringing on parents’ rights by mandating face masks.  Penalties for violating this policy can be severe:  withholding state funding for school districts and eliminating salaries for school superintendents and school board members who ignore the Executive Order.

In essence, the Florida school boards and superintendents are between a rock and a hard place.  By their actions and policies they have made student safety paramount; but if state funding is withdrawn, the future of education is at stake.

Speaking in favor of the mandate were medical professionals, teachers and parents, who claimed that the current policy is not protecting students. Furthermore, they were distressed that what appeared to be a majority of teachers and support staff were also not wearing masks.  Only one speaker spoke in opposition to a face mask mandate.

Some of the comments from speakers are provided below:

  • The vacine is like a seatbelt.  It doesn’t prevent accidents, but it does keep you alive in an accident.
  • Hospitals are like a war zone.  Young and healthy people, including kids, are dying.
  • Prepare for another Covid wave in 6-8 weeks.
  • People don’t die from wearing masks.
  • Masks are the only protection we have from the unvaccinated, who are the control group for the virus.
  • Stand up to bullying from Tallahassee!
  • Covid is more likely to spread on our campuses than attacks from armed shooters.
  • Staff should set the example.
  • If we can enforce dress codes, we should be able to enforce wearing of face masks.
  • Adopt a mandate with an opt out provision.
  • Open windows to air out schools at the end of each school day.
  • Children who wear masks are in the minority and ridiculed by others.

Marian Phillips, President of Nassau Educational Support Personnel Association (NESPA), reminded the audience that requiring staff to wear face masks would be a change in working conditions that must be collectively bargained.  Dr. Burns agreed.  However, this was not presented as an obstacle by either side.  Teachers are represented by Nassau Teacher’s Association (NTA), and would also need changes to their contract to mandate face masks.

In response to the question:  What can we do?  Phillips and School Board Members advised the audience to call and paper the Governor’s Office and the Office of the Education Commissioner with their concerns.

Dr. Burns reported that she has been in conversation with other school superintendents to determine how they are handling  the situation.  Attorney Steger said that districts that have defied the governor on face masks have received warnings from the Education Commissioner.  However, adopting a mask requirement with an unconditional opt out provision for parents seems to provide a more promising approach.  The school districts that have gotten into trouble did so because they make limited exceptions, in some cases requiring medical documentation that a child could not wear a face mask.

Because the face mask controversy had not been publicly noticed on the August 12, 2021 meeting agenda, the NCSB could not vote to change the existing policy.  However, the NCSB is convening a Special Meeting on August 17 ar 7:00 p.m.  The only topic on the agenda will be the face mask policy.

 

 

Contact information for state and county officials is provided below:

Governor Ron DeSantis
https://www.flgov.com/contact-governor/

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran
https://www.fldoe.org/about-us/commissioner-corcoran/ 

Nassau County School Board
https://www.nassau.k12.fl.us/domain/89

School Superintendent Dr. Kathy Burns
https://www.nassau.k12.fl.us/domain/87 

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Brenda C. Kayne
Brenda C. Kayne (@guest_62071)
1 year ago

Good to wear masks. Mandates regarding the health of children work. Like the mandate to wear seat belts and the like. To politicize, punish, or deny does not help the situation. Gratitude and admiration towards those who are energized to make the mandate happen.

Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
1 year ago

This article is already a little out of date. DeSantis is backing down on his threat to cut funding, and especially his threat to cut administrators’ salaries after a court declared that illegal. In response to the question: what to do?, the answer is simple. Get courageous, protect students, require masks for students and school personnel. Changes to teacher and support staff contracts ate made easily through Memorandums of Understanding. By the way, parents do not have a “right“ to choose if their child wears a mask at school or not. Schools have the right to mandate that. What parents have is the right to take their child out of that school they don’t like its policies.

Doug Mowery
Doug Mowery (@guest_62085)
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Tomes

DeSantis is backing down on his threat to cut funding, and especially his threat to cut administrators’ salaries after a court declared that illegal.

Mark,

I missed that court decision. Nobody is reporting that locally. Can you give more details? Source?

Richard Norman Kurpiers
Richard Norman Kurpiers (@guest_62086)
1 year ago
Reply to  Doug Mowery

The Miami Herald first reported this two days ago.

”Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration signaled earlier this week that it would slash the pay of Florida school superintendents and school board members who defy the governor on school masks.

But now — as two Florida districts, including Broward County Public Schools, remain defiant — the governor’s office is acknowledging the state has no control over local employees’ pay. His spokesperson called on “activist, anti-science school board members” to dock their own salaries if the state follows through with financial sanctions against their district.”

Doug Mowery
Doug Mowery (@guest_62098)
1 year ago

Thanks, Richard! So there was no court decision as Mark reported? I think Haughey would have been all over that one.

w. wayne arrants
w. wayne arrants (@guest_62078)
1 year ago

Not to worry, looks like the federalization of Florida public schools is coming soon. That should fix it.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_62101)
1 year ago

I hope.

bob carter
bob carter (@guest_62081)
1 year ago

Surely a mandate will cause further division of left and right thinking parents.

Soon, all schools will contain only leftists, as the right will home and private school.

Indoctrination will be full bore without hindrance.

Yes, this is a good way to further divide a hurting nation.

Can’t we all just get along?

What happened to allowing our children to get sick? Seems those with previous covid illness are the strongest of all, facing no fear of any variants.

We cannot trust the hospitals as there is so much money for a ‘covid treatment’ from the feds, that the temptation is too high to allow a flu to be diagnosed as a flu. Hospitals need money more than you think.

With 20% of children being home schooled already, expect this to increase with political mandates.

Oh, yes, many will be happy to see ‘those children’ leave the public schools.

Be careful what you wish for.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_62100)
1 year ago
Reply to  bob carter

Ever think ignorance might be part of the problem?

Doug Mowery
Doug Mowery (@guest_62082)
1 year ago

They’ll adopt the mandate with unconditional parental “opt out” this week. Book it…….

You’ll still be right where you are when you truly think about it.

Barnes Moore
Barnes Moore (@guest_62099)
1 year ago

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”. – H L Mencken. 

While COVID may not be imaginary, the efficacy of mask wearing is. Due to it’s size, the virus easily passes through mask materials – the N95 mask is better at slowing the passage, but even it does not stop it all. Add to that the way people are wearing the mask (below the nose and even poorly fitted around the mouth), how many times they reuse a disposable mask, what they do with the mask when they take it off (stuff it in a pocket or purse), how many times they wash a cloth re-useable mask, the general poor fit of masks, etc., along with a growing number of studies that show no difference in infection/death rates between areas with mask mandates and those without.  Following science means looking at data, and there is no data that support the idea that masks stop the spread.

Search for “Some Observations On the Efficacy of Masks in a #COVID19 World” Quote: “Nearly all the masks we see people wearing are constructed to no standard, made of varying sorts of cloth, are poorly fitting, are worn with near complete disregard for effectiveness, reused who knows how many times, used for what else we know not, and are often completely open at the cheeks, nose, chin and beard. They appear mainly useful for making a person touch their face constantly….Masks mandates are not a risk free intervention. They have a poor effect of civil society, they absorb resources, they possibly carry health risks of their own, and they certainly contribute to mistaken notions of safety and risk. Masks seem to me like a solution to a political problem which should alone raise skepticism about all claims”.

And, if you have not seen the video of the Mt. Vernon School Board meeting, search on “watch?v=4noVcBrNzAU” and if that does not work because youtube takes it down, try this:rumble vkxnwn-mt.-vernon-indiana-school-board-meeting-08-06-202

Richard Norman Kurpiers
Richard Norman Kurpiers (@guest_62102)
1 year ago
Reply to  Barnes Moore

I listened to Dr. Dan Stock who spoke at the Mt. Vernon School Board meeting and then I listened to multiple medical professionals who laid out the fallacies and misinformation of his presentation. I also took note that Dr. Dan Stock is not board-certified in any medical discipline, much less immunology or infectious diseases. I think I’ll listen to those who are actually board-certified and considered experts in their respective fields related to the fight against the Covid virus. I can also state unequivocally that if I should fall seriously ill, I’ll choose board-certified physicians over non-certified for my care.

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