Orange County School Board reinstates mask mandate with no opt-out

The Orange County School Board is reinstating a mask mandate following lengthy discussion and public comment on Tuesday.  The mandate, which does not include an opt-out clause, is to be in place for 60 days.

The universal mask mandate, for all preK-12 students and adults, will begin Monday, August 30, and will last until October 30.  The mask mandate will not be required for any student with a note from a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant or employee with a medical exemption

Many teachers had been calling on the district to adopt stricter mask policies for Orange County students  – policies that would not include an opt-out clause. 

Orange County now joins several districts across the state in defying Gov. Ron DeSantis over his ban on such COVID-19 mandates.

At a rally on Monday, members of the Orange County Teacher’s Union and their supporters said masks are critical for protecting students. Then on Tuesday, parents for and against the issue gathered ahead of the board meeting to promote their respective sides.

Orange County's decision comes after a Leon County judge heard the second day of arguments in a case brought by parents suing Gov. DeSantis, arguing that his executive order against masks, "impairs the safe operation of schools."

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The governor has said that he feels the decision should be left up to parents to decide whether their children should wear face coverings in school. 

Union leaders said the state should act in the best interest of students. 

Orange County is reporting a 14-day rolling positivity rate of around 20%. To put that in perspective, this time last year, the entire state of Florida saw a positivity rate of under 10%. 

The other districts that have imposed strict mask mandates are Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Duval, Leon, Alachua, and Sarasota.

Watch FOX 35 News for the latest updates on face mask policies in Central Florida.