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Back to school: What you need to know about new school year in Palm Beach County, Treasure Coast

Mask policies vary from county to county
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Posted at 8:48 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 20:48:16-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The summer break will come to an end this week for public school students in Palm Beach County and across the Treasure Coast.

Check out your school district below for answers about key topics regarding COVID-19 and other frequently asked questions.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Back to School | State of Education

Palm Beach County

The first day of school in Palm Beach County is Aug. 10.

Interim Palm Beach County Superintendent Mike Burke announced Saturday that facial coverings will be mandatory inside schools and buses for all students unless the student's parent or guardian chooses to opt out of the requirement.

The superintendent will reevaluate the status of facial coverings every 30 days.

The school district said Monday that parents can simply write a note stating that they are choosing to opt-out their child. There is no need to cite the statute or provide further details.

Example: "August 10, 2021 - I am opting for my child [Insert name] to not wear a facial covering while at school. Signed, [insert parent name]."

All teachers must wear masks while on campus. Classroom Teachers Association President Justin Katz said Monday that they believe there needs to be some form of opt-out or leeway for vaccinated teachers regarding masks.

Social distancing will be encouraged to the extent possible.

Palm Beach County has an extensive back-to-school website with frequently asked questions on COVID-19 policies.

The school district has also established a hotline at 561-969-5840 available through Aug. 13 for parents who have back-to-school questions.

Martin County

The first day of school in Martin County is Aug. 11.

Masks will be optional and voluntary for students, staff and visitors. However, the school district says on their website if there is an "unusually high spike in cases," the Martin County School Board may adjust this protocol.

There is not a mandate that eligible students receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend school. However, the Florida Department of Health in Martin County is offering free vaccinations for everyone ages 12 and older.

Visit the county's back to school website for frequently asked questions, bus routes and other information about the return to school.

St. Lucie County

The first day of school in St. Lucie County is Aug. 10.

The school district is strongly recommending everyone 12 and older get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Currently, the school district's website only lists that "face coverings are highly recommended."

St. Lucie County Superintendent Wayne Gent spoke with WPTV anchor Michael Williams on Monday and said the district is strongly encouraging parents to put masks on their children. However, there is no mask mandate.

"Our current policy on what's in place is that it's highly recommended, but it's a parent decision if they choose not to have their child masked up," Gent said.

There is no mandate for teachers and staff to wear masks in schools.

The issues of masks in schools will be discussed further at Tuesday evening's St. Lucie County school board meeting.

The school district said they are cleaning schools in accordance with CDC guidelines and disinfecting high-touch surfaces throughout the day.

Gent said they will work to practice the 6-foot social distancing policy but said "it's just not practical in some settings."

Indian River County

The first day of school in Indian River County is Aug. 10.

Superintendent Dr. David Moore said Monday during a Facebook Live that face coverings are highly recommended for all students and staff during indoor instruction, activities and riding buses when social distancing is not possible.

Parents can opt out of the school district's mask policy by completing a form on the Focus Parent Portal or writing a note and submitting it to their student's homeroom/first-period teacher.

Face coverings must be worn by all campus visitors.

Moore said the face-covering policy will be reviewed on or before Sept. 1 for any modifications.

Classrooms will be arranged to maximize social distancing.

Okeechobee County

The first day of school in Okeechobee County is Aug. 10.

The school district says on their website that masks are optional both at school and on buses.

COVID-19 vaccinations are optional for students and staff.

If you would like to have your student vaccinated, medical staff will be available at Okeechobee High School and Osceola Middle School during open houses for voluntary vaccinations.

Parents must be present to provide permission and sign appropriate documents. For all other students, you may call and set up an appointment at Heartland Discount Pharmacy, Walmart or the Dr. Fred Brown Clinic or your pediatrician.