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Local Update: Polk and Hillsborough School Mask Mandates

When schools reopen, will students and staff be required to wear masks? It’s a question that we, like many of you, have been asking for a while now. Thanks to school board meetings in Polk County this week, Winter Haven and Lakeland residents now have an answer. Here are some updates on local school mask mandates.

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Polk County School Mask Mandates

The Polk County School Board voted this week to make masks mandatory for students and staff. The school district agreed to include masks as part of the dress code policy. This will apply to all Polk public school students from kindergarten to 12th grade. If students don’t have a mask of their own, the school will provide one for them.

Much of the school board’s decision was based upon Walt Disney World’s mask requirements. There, guests 2 years old and up must wear masks at all times, except when eating or drinking. These masks must cover both the nose and mouth, and they have to fit tightly on the face. School board members felt that these requirements were fair and should apply to their own students.

Since the mask requirement will be a part of the dress code, some are wondering if there will be disciplinary action for students who do not comply. The school board decided to leave discipline policies up to individual school administrators. Instead, they will likely try to get non-compliant students to take virtual classes. Schools will also be able to offer medical exceptions.

Some teachers expressed their concerns over teaching young children to wear the masks. The school board agreed that students in kindergarten and first grade would receive more grace as they first begin the year. This will allow teachers to teach their young students why and how to properly wear a mask.

Other Polk County Safety Measures

Polk County district school buses will also be using different safety measures. Bus drivers will have their temperatures checked each day and will have to wear a mask and gloves. Students will have to keep their masks on while they ride and will have access to hand sanitizer when they enter and exit the bus. Riders will load buses from back to front, with only two students per seat.

August 24 is still the official reopen date for Polk County schools. Parents have been asked to submit an intent form stating if their child will return to face-to-face schooling or will attend virtually. The deadline on this survey has been extended to this Sunday at midnight, so if you haven’t filled that out yet, don’t forget! Click here to fill it out.

Hillsborough County School Updates

The Hillsborough County superintendent of schools announced at the beginning of July that Tampa students and staff would be required to wear masks in the fall. At first, he had stated that the district would just encourage masks, but his stance has since changed.

Students and teachers will be provided with three reusable masks. Teachers can also use clear face shields instead if needed.

Masks will not be part of the dress code, but they will still be enforced. The specific discipline policies for not wearing masks have not been announced. As with Polk County, students in Hillsborough who won’t wear masks will be referred to virtual schooling.

Tell Us Your Thoughts!

Do you think this is the right decision? Should students and staff have to wear masks to return to Polk and Hillsborough County schools this fall? Let us know what you think on Facebook. We’d love to hear your thoughts! As with all other aspects of this pandemic, only time will tell if this works.

We know this has been a hard time for everyone. Remember that Brooks Law Group is here to serve you. If you need our services, please contact us today. We are ready to give you the best client experience possible!

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