➡️ On Wednesday, August 26th at 6pm, the Okaloosa County School Board will hold an emergency meeting to discuss a new ‘face coverings policy’ across the district.
Here’s how we got here 👇
😷 The subject of masks in schools has been discussed at workshops and school board meetings for months now. Both from the public and among school board members.
During a school board meeting on July 27th, School Board Member Dr. Diane Kelley addressed the public regarding the many mask comments.
“I’ve been an advocate for masks and I still am,” said Dr. Kelley. “And I think the latest metrics that Dr. Chapman sent us today even said that there is an ongoing need to maintain physical distancing and face masks. There is a growing body of evidence that cloth face coverings do work for the virus.”
Dr. Kelley continued her discussion on face masks by referring to a potential opt-out option for parents if there was a mandate put into place.
“I don’t know why we couldn’t have mandated masks with an opt-out for parents just like those who called in saying their child had asthma [and] couldn’t wear it all day”, continued Kelley. “Or they had an ESE child or ADHD child, or they have another inherent health situation that would require an opt-out.”
Fast forward to last Thursday’s workshop ⏩
At last Thursday’s board workshop, Superintendent Marcus Chambers addressed the board on what they would like to see in a ‘face coverings policy.’
“I think over the last several board meetings we have discussed the topic of masks”, said Chambers. “Not necessarily in great depth, but it has been brought up. But what I would like to do is to open it up and go through the Board and have a discussion on where we feel you would like to lead us, and myself as well, with masks. And whether we need to generate a policy or whether we stay with “strongly encouraging when social distancing can’t be maintained.”
🚨 NOTE: “Strongly encouraging when social distancing can’t be maintained” is the current stance.
Dr. Kelley opened up the discussion by saying that she would like the district to provide students with a mask that they could have on their person at all times. Then, allow the teachers to have discretion on whether or not a mask was needed in their classroom.
Board members Linda Evanchyk and Dewey Destin did not want to leave it up to teacher discretion.
“I don’t want the teacher to have to be ‘bad guy’,” said Evanchyk. “If we allow teachers to make the decision in their classroom, I think it would be sending such a mixed message.”
Destin echoed the sentiment by stating that “leaving the policy to them [teachers] means that we have no policy at all because there are close to 2,000 teachers which would mean we would have 2,000 policies.”
Dr. Lamar White referenced Dr. Chapman’s recommendation that students wear masks in schools.
“That’s what I look to,” said White. “I look at the source document, what it says and it refers to her [Chapman] specifically.”
“I would be interested in seeing some draft language, some ideas that you [Chambers] might have worked up, that I could take a look at for specifics to see if, in fact, that language might accommodate some of the kinds of issues that have been brought forward by colleagues on this school board.”
Superintendent Chambers then asked to not have the ‘face coverings’ policy added to Monday’s school board meeting agenda, but rather create a separate meeting where parents could show up to voice their comments or concerns.
Board Member Tim Bryant called for an emergency meeting to be held on Wednesday, August 26th at 6pm.
So, here we are…with a draft ‘face coverings’ policy 😷
Let’s talk masks first…
Subject to the exceptions set forth below, each student, employee, visitor, vendor, or other person must comply with the CDC guidelines regarding the wearing of masks or face coverings (hereinafter collectively “face coverings”) at those times when social distancing of at least six (6) feet between individuals is not possible when on or inside any property owned, leased, or operated by the School Board.
This includes, but is not limited to schools, administrative buildings and buses or other vehicles, as well as during any school or district-sponsored activity at another location.
All individuals subject to this policy will have to provide their own face coverings that comply with this policy. Examples of unacceptable face coverings include 👇:
- Gaiter type neck fleece
- Double layer bandana
- Any type of mask with a one-way exhalation valve or vent
- Lace, mesh, crocheted, or other masks or face coverings that are not solid material
- Face coverings that are worn so that large gaps exist between the face covering and the person’s skin
- Face shields
However, the school district will maintain emergency supplies of disposable or other new face coverings so that no student, staff member or other person will be in a position where they will not have access to one.
Additionally, all persons shall have a face covering with them at all times while on school district property, even if they are in a location where they ARE allowed NOT to wear a face covering because social distancing is possible.
It’s important to note that employees will not be disciplined or held responsible for the actions of students or parents who refuse to follow instructions to comply with this policy or practice COVID-19 safety protocols or for any adverse consequences of wearing face coverings.
- PreK, Kindergarten, and Specialized Student Populations.
- Children who are less than three (3) years of age
- Face Shields in Certain Circumstances
- Eating and drinking
- Strenuous Physical Activity
- Musical Performances
- Indoors or Driving When Alone
- Emergency circumstances
- IEP or 504 Plan
- Outdoors when social distancing
Schools will provide students with opportunities for breaks where they can remove their face covering while maintaining appropriate social distancing and while under general supervision. Under these circumstances, employees may also periodically take a face covering break.
A face covering shall not be required for persons who present school district staff with a certification from a licensed health care provider that the person has a medical, physical or psychological contraindication that prevents the person from being able to safely wear a face covering.
Teachers, staff members and students at the direction of the teacher, may remove their face coverings when wearing them would impede instruction.
Opt Out Option (This was added to the policy as of 1:30pm on Monday): A face covering shall not be required for any student whose parent/guardian opts out of the provisions of this policy because it goes against their beliefs. The same goes for any employee who wishes to opt out of the provisions of this policy.
Let’s talk noncompliance 🙅♂️
According to the draft policy, all students are expected to follow the face covering requirements. Students who do not wear a face covering when it is required (or refuse to do so), will first be “reeducated on the importance of wearing a face covering.”
If after the reeducation occurs, they still do not comply, the student’s principal, or his/her designee, will be contacted.
The policy states that “not wearing a face covering when it is required is not a disciplinary matter, but rather a health and safety concern.”
The principal, or his/her designee, will then contact the student’s parent/guardian for support and discuss exception options such as an opt out.
The following was originally part of the draft policy and has since been removed:
If the refusal continues, the principal, or his/her designee, must contact the student’s parent/guardian, to discuss placement options into an online educational program. This placement is considered a non-disciplinary placement.
The meeting will take place on Wednesday, August 26th at 6pm at the School District Central Administration Building in Niceville, Florida.
The public may participate in the Public Comment portions of the meeting by either in-person attendance or by calling the School Board Meeting public participation phone line. A separate seating area has been set aside for the press and public who are in attendance at the meeting in accordance with social distancing guidelines as provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If calling into the meeting, you should call (850) 833-3100. The phone lines will be operational beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the night of the Board Meeting, and callers will be transferred into the Board Meeting during the Public Hearing portion of the meeting only, in the order in which calls are received.
If approved, this emergency face coverings policy takes effect on August 27, 2020, and will remain in effect until 11:00 p.m. on November 25, 2020, unless extended.