Indian River County School Board votes to approve new mask policy

All K-8 students required to wear facial coverings without ability to opt out
The School District of Indian River County's J.A. Thompson Administrative Center on Sept. 14, 2021.jpg
Posted at 8:35 AM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 23:21:56-04

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — The Indian River County School Board met Tuesday night and voted 3-2 to adopt a multi-tiered mask policy that would rely on different masking options depending on the combined daily percentage of student and staff cases in each school. 5% will mean mandatory masking with only a medical opt-out.

"Remain in that level of masking for 10 consecutive days," Superintendent Dr. David Moore said.

It will take effect for K-8 students on Monday, September 20 and for high schools on Wednesday, September 29.

The current policy requires all students from kindergarten through eighth grade to wear a facial covering while on school property and when social distancing isn’t possible, without the ability to opt out.

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According to Moore, COVID-19 case numbers in the School District of Indian River County have decreased significantly.

"Right now, we're right around 1% of staff across the entire system. That is a really good sign. We're seeing reductions and on a daily basis, those that are being sent for testing as well as positive," Moore said. "We had 54 faculty and staff test positive the day that we moved to the mandate. Over the course of the last week, we've had under 15."

Moore also said he doesn’t anticipate any more school closures.

Beachland Elementary School in Vero Beach and Treasure Coast Elementary School near Sebastian were both forced to shut down for weeks because of COVID-19 cases among students and staff members, along with a shortage of employees.

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According to the latest numbers from the School District of Indian River County, there have been 939 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students and 188 among staff members during the 2021/22 academic year.

On Tuesday afternoon, Moore laid out his desired plan for masks in schools moving forward.

"If we don’t have a plan in place, we’re going to put ourselves, our community and most importantly our children in the same despicable moment that we’re currently in," Moore said.

With two elementary schools just reopening after temporarily shutting down, the district initiated a two-week masking mandate for K-8 students with no parental opt-out, only by medical exemption. That policy ends Wednesday.

"At all costs, we need to communicate a level of confidence and comfort to our parents that in our schools, your students are safe," Moore said.

School Board Chair Brian Barefoot, part of the 3-2 vote in favor of last month’s mandate, said that while he doesn’t like masks, this is not a time for politics.

"I just don’t understand why people can’t be considerate of their fellow parents, the other children," Barefoot said.