School closures are spiking as one district proves masks are protecting kids
A mask mandate is stymying COVID in at least one Florida district that has defied state leaders who continue to threaten superintendents over face-covering requirements.
The COVID positivity rate among students in Hillsborough County Public Schools had dropped by 23% since masks were mandated by an emergency rule on Aug. 18, district leaders said in a letter sent Wednesday to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.
“This preliminary data suggests the emergency rule has been a critical component in combating the spread of COVID-19,” Superintendent Addison G. Davis and School Board Chair Lynn L. Gray wrote in the letter, in which they also said they believe their mandate complies with state laws.
More Florida districts are requiring face coverings even though Corcoran and Gov. Ron DeSantis have already fined two districts over mask mandates, despite a judge ruling last week that the state’s ban on mask mandates was unconstitutional.
Volusia County Schools is the latest Florida district to mandate masks. Its mandate will be in place until at least Oct. 15, when the school board will determine whether it should remain in place.
And officials in Sarasota County Public Schools had to update their mask mandate after some families sought opt-out notes from a local chiropractor, WFLA.com reported. The district will now only accept opt-out forms signed by medical doctors, osteopathic physicians or advanced registered nurse practitioners, according to WFLA.com.
Where closures are growing rapidly
Connally ISD in Texas had shut down all its schools after two teachers died of COVID in recent weeks, KCENTV.com reported. A sixth-grade teacher died this week and another teacher died Aug. 24. Both taught social studies at the same junior high school.
School closures are now hitting especially hard in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
Montgomery County Schools in Kentucky shut down Wednesday when 25 more students were diagnosed with COVID, the district announced on Facebook.
New vaccine mandate
Only a few school districts have imposed any type of vaccine mandate.
This week, Baltimore City Public Schools required high school students participating in winter and spring sports to get vaccinated before their seasons begin.
New York City has also required athletes to get vaccinated. Culver City USD in California appears to be the only district in the country that has mandated vaccines for all eligible students.
“These cases have resulted in over 150 students needing to quarantine due to close contact with the positive cases at school,” the district said. “Today’s new cases and quarantines effectively doubled our current case/quarantine numbers.”
Administrators intend to reopen Sept. 7.
More than 20 Kentucky districts have closed—some multiple times—so far this school year, the Courier-Journal reported. State legislators who held a special meeting to seek alternative options for instruction did not discuss a mask mandate, the newspaper reported.
In Ohio, Carlisle Local Schools, Clark-Shawnee Schools,Crestline Exempted Village School District, Lebanon City Schools and Lexington Local Schools are among the districts that are closed through Labor Day, though will remain shut down until later in September.
The districts in Union, Warren, Washington and Wilson counties are closed until after Labor Day.
Another mask mandate ban challenged
Another judge has, at least temporarily, rejected a state’s ban on school mask mandates. An Oklahoma judge Wednesday temporarily suspended the portion of a state law barring schools from mandating masks, Oklahoma Watch reported.
A group of parents and the Oklahoma State Medical Association had sued Gov. Kevin Stitt over the ban. “Today is a victory for families, the safeguarding of schoolchildren and their opportunity to learn in-person,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister told Oklahoma Watch. “The court’s striking of the mask mandate prohibition on (Senate Bill) 658 now enables schools to fulfill their duty to protect and ensure equal protection for all students, including those with disabilities and the most vulnerable in our schools.”
In Indiana, students, teachers and staff in schools that have strictly followed mask mandates do not have to quarantine if they are close contacts and aren’t showing symptoms of COVID-19, Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered Wednesday.