Indian River County schools to move to tiered system for face masks

An Indian River County student wear a face mask in school during the 2021_22 academic year.jpg
Posted at 3:52 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 17:45:29-04

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — Big changes when it comes to future mask wearing in Indian River County schools. Students at schools that have low numbers of COVID-19 cases will be allowed to take the masks off.

At Storm Grove Middle School, students around campus and in the classroom are wearing their masks.

It’s mandatory for all K-8 students in the county right now with no parental opt out. But soon, if COVID cases come down, so can the masks.

"Moving away from this wide sweeping mandate where all schools follow throughout entire county, and implement something that is fluid and responsive to realities in each individual school," said Indian River County Superintendent Dr. David Moore.

The school board late Tuesday approved the plan put forth by Moore. It’s a tiered approach based on the percentage of students and staff testing positive for COVID.

If cases are under 1%, masks are optional. 1% to 2%, masks would be highly recommended indoors. 3% to 4%, masks would be required with a parent opt-out. Over 5%, face coverings would be required with only a medical-opt out.

And in that case, masks would also be mandated at the school for at least 10 days.

"We may not ever have to be in that medical opt-out for a particular school. But when the data says you’re on the verge of losing free and appropriate public education, the system needs to be able to respond locally in the best interest of those children," Moore said.

Tuesday night’s board meeting had mask supporters and opponents outside and inside stating their case.

WPTV asked Moore if he felt the board's move would be in violation of state directives, where the governor instituted a ban on mask mandates.

"The school board is acting with authority provided to them through Florida’s Constitution which allows them to make appropriate decisions based on reality here in our county in our school system," Moore said.

Moore added the board’s approval means that they can move ahead with the school year and not get bogged down in future mask controversies.

"We don’t have to bring the board back together. We don’t have to have people on opposite sides of the street yelling at each other based on their mask preferences or beliefs," Moore said.

The new plan takes effect for K-8 graders on Monday and in high schools at the end of the month.