PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Catholic schools in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast will once again require masks when children return to the classroom Monday.
Gary Gelo, superintendent for the Diocese of Palm Beach, sent a memorandum to parents, faculty and staff Friday notifying them that all schools will require everyone to wear masks while indoors on all campuses and while riding school transportation.
The only opt-out exemption will be for a medical condition, which will require a doctor's letter certifying the particular medical disability and the reason why the disability precludes the child from wearing a facial covering of any kind.
Students and teachers will not be required to wear masks while outdoors if they can practice proper social distancing.
Catholic schools required masks during the 2020-21 academic year, but parents were given the ability to opt out of wearing masks when the 2021-22 school year began.
Gelo cited the need for more restrictive "COVID-19 mitigation strategies" after the number of students and teachers who have had to quarantine "has risen dramatically, and in some cases, whole classes have had to stay home due to exposure."
"Tragically, this week, one of our beloved school staff members died from COVID-19," Gelo wrote.
Gelo said the mask mandate is in effect for the next 60 days and would be reviewed every 30 days thereafter "to determine if it should be continued or revised."
The decision follows similar requirements made by other school districts in South Florida, including Palm Beach County.
"I understand that some families believe that masks are detrimental to your child, and you may be opposed to these requirements," Gelo wrote. "However, given the current spread of the virus in our community, families will have to comply with these guidelines or consider other educational options for your child."