Masks 'strongly encouraged' at Palm Beach County schools

Interim superintendent says he plans to modify language in district policy
Teachers union calling for masks to be worn at all times in school
Posted at 6:13 PM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 08:39:11-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Interim Palm Beach County Superintendent Mike Burke said Wednesday during a school board meeting that he intends to exercise the authority to amend the current protocols that call for facial coverings to be optional for students, staff and visitors at the start of the school year.

Burke said student policy 5.326 would be changed to shift "optional face coverings" to "strongly encouraged face coverings."

Staff policy would also be changed to "strongly encouraged" and visitors to school campuses will be required to wear masks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order last week blocking mask mandates in the state's schools, leaving the decision as to whether children wear masks up to the parents.

Burke said he didn't want to put a mandate into place because of the governor's order.

"Initially, I approached this issue as ours to make here at the local level. But that changed on Friday, July 30, with the governor's issuance of executive order 21-175," Burke said. "While I question the governor's reasoning, there is no question in my mind he will use all powers at his disposal to enforce this order."

Hearing of the change in policy, Debbie Proctor wasn't happy.

"I think that it should be optional, and let the kids decide and go back to school for their mental health," she said.

Guillermo Pasada believes the district is moving in the right direction.

"Then that's safety for the kids, right? That's better for the kids," he said. "If they say that, then that's the way it's supposed to be."

Burke said the changes will go into effect immediately. He also said the requirements will be revisited every 30 days and evaluated based on local health conditions.