Alachua County Schools extends mask mandate for 8 more weeks

Alachua County voted to extend its mandatory mask mandate for eight more weeks.

Prior to the school year, Alachua County Schools voted unanimously for a mask mandate during the first two weeks of school. 

"For us to be able to do business of running a school district, we need people masked, we need people vaccinated, we need this as quickly as possible so we can get through this," Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon said.

Alachua County Schools spokeswoman Jackie Johnson added, "We've seen a dramatic spike in cases, among our employees."

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Then on Tuesday, the school district decided to extend this mandate for eight more weeks. They said it is amove for the safety of students and staff. 

Alachua is just one of two Florida counties that requires students to wear face masks without an option to opt-out. 

This move comes in defiance of Governor Ron DeSantis’ recent executive order prohibiting such mandates. He has threatened to withhold superintendent and staff salaries in districts with mask mandates.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has even sent a letter to Alachua County Schools expressing "grave concern" of the school districts’ "significant neglect" over the Governor’s executive order. 

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Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon responded and explained that her district has seen more employees test positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks than the last five months. She said two of their custodians died of COVID-related complications a couple of weeks ago.

"Parents are sending their most valued member of their life, they love their children. They’re putting them in our care and I want them to know we take this seriously. I want them to know this is a safe school," she said. 

But Governor DeSantis is standing by his mandate, stating "there are actually higher infection rates when you are just in the community versus when you are in the classroom, particularly for the younger kids," said Governor DeSantis. "These kindergarteners and first-graders are not people that are really transmitting this in significant levels."

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