Indian River County School superintendent explains reasoning for new mask mandate

'This is 1,000 times worse than at any point it was last year,' superintendent says
Posted at 10:35 PM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 23:15:10-04

VERO BEACH, Fla. — Some parents in Indian River County are upset with the school district's new mask mandate that was passed Tuesday night.

"I think instead of fighting Gov. Ron DeSantis, maybe some issues could have been resolved by reaching out to the governor's office and saying, 'Guys, we're up to X amount of staff and students who are now out due to this virus. We need extra help from you guys," said parent Cody Holcomb.

Superintendent Dr. David Moore said on Wednesday that the 2021-22 school year is already proving to be challenging.

"What we've experienced in the first two-and-a-half weeks of school absolutely is a new environment," said Moore. "This is 1,000 times worse than at any point it was last year."

The new mandate is set to go into effect Monday and will last until Sept. 15 unless it is extended by board members.

It also only applies to pre-kindergarten through eigth grade.

"Our high schools are larger schools," said Moore. "Their mitigation strategies are working at a better pace."

According to the district's COVID-19 dashboard, 98 staff members have so far tested positive.

Sixty of them work in pre-K through eighth grade.

"Our job is to provide a free and appropriate public education for all students, and when you don't have teachers, you don't have support staff, you can't do that," said Moore.

Moore said as many as 10 district support staff members are having to put their work on pause to fill in as classroom teachers while full-time teachers are sick or quarantined.

"I do sympathize with parents who feel that we're somehow, we're encroaching, but we have to keep schools open," said Jennifer Freeland, president of the Indian River County Education Association. "If we're going to keep them open, there's no way to do it without protecting people."

Moore said the board plans to monitor cases over the next two weeks and will revisit the mandate at its Sept. 14 meeting.