Alachua County School Board unanimously approves mask mandate

Signs in front of the Alachua Schools building remind people to wear their masks. Alachua County officials said they are seeing a spike in coronavirus cases among employees, which could put the start of the school year at risk. 

The school board voted unanimously on Tuesday for a mask mandate during the first two weeks of school.

At the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon said everyone needed to do their part.

"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," she said.

District officials said they've had 18 new COVID-19 cases in the last three days alone, while there were no cases in June. Eighty workers have been quarantined over possible COVID-19 infection and are waiting on their test results. Over the weekend, two custodians died from the disease.

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

Johnson said without students in masks, they may not even be able to hold classes. 

"So that's why we have taken this step so we can do what we can to keep our schools open," she said.

Johnson said students in grades higher than kindergarten will be taken to the office if they refuse to mask up. 

"We would treat this the same way as if a student came in with no shirt, for example. We'd bring them to the office, contact the parent. The parent would need to either bring them a shirt or take them home."

The school district is offering $100 to employees who get vaccinated. School Board members will meet again on August 17 to decide whether the mask mandate will stay in place.

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