TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's top education official said students should no longer be required to wear face masks inside of schools.
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent a letter to school district superintendents throughout the state on Wednesday, urging them to eliminate their current face mask mandates, and instead make facial coverings optional.
"We ask that districts, which currently are implementing a mandated face covering policy, revise their policy to be voluntary for the 2021-2022 school year," Corcoran wrote in his letter.
Corcoran said face mask mandates in schools "do not impact the spread of the virus," based on health data.
"Face coverings are a personal decision and certainly families and individuals should maintain their ability to make a decision that is unique to their circumstances," Corcoran wrote. "Broad sweeping mandatory face covering policies serve no remaining good at this point in our schools."
The educator commissioner went on to say that face masks "inhibit peer-to-peer learning," and may also "impede instruction" for "students with disabilities and English language learners who benefit from viewing a teacher's face and mouth."
Currently, school districts in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee counties all require students to wear face coverings inside of schools.
There are some exceptions, however, like when children are eating and drinking, during physical education and recess, or when social distancing can be maintained, depending on the school district.
The School District of Palm Beach County and St. Lucie Public Schools have both announced their intentions to return to traditional in-person learning for the 2021/22 academic year, and eliminate distance learning related to the COVID-19 pandemic.