File photo of masked elementary school students attending a math lesson. MARY ALTAFFER / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Some Northeast Florida School Districts Nix Mask Mandate; Others Still Deciding

WJCT | by Tristan Wood | May 20, 2021

The CDC has changed its COVID-19 guidelines to no longer recommend fully vaccinated people wear masks in most scenarios, but with children under 12 still not eligible for vaccines, and many teens still unvaccinated, here is how local school districts’ COVID-19 policies stand after the change:

St. Johns County School District

The St. Johns County School District will be scaling back its current COVID-19 health and safety procedures starting on June 14 during its summer programs, according to a May 14 letter from Superintendent Tim Forson. 

Face masks, social distancing, and desk shields will no longer be mandatory, Forson said. Schools will also stop checking temperatures of students, staff and visitors. However, “enhanced sanitation practices” that started during the pandemic will continue into next school year.

The district also announced it will stop offering school-based distance learning next school year in a March 31 email to parents and guardians. St. Johns Virtual School will still be available to students. 

Athletics, events, plays and dances will return, and safety protocols for those activities have not been set.

Nassau County School District

Likewise, the Nassau County School District will not require masks or social distancing next school year, Assistant Superintendent Mark Durham said. It will also not require masks during its summer programs.

The district will also stop offering its school-based distance learning option next year, but Nassau Virtual School will still be an option for those uncomfortable returning to classrooms, Durham said.

Duval County Public Schools

Duval County Public Schools is still working on its 2021/2022 COVID-19 safety measures, and it’s collecting feedback now. 

The DCPS COVID policy survey asks multiple-choice questions about if and how the district should implement face masks, hand sanitizer, desk shields and temperature checks next year.

The survey closes the night of Monday, May 24, at midnight and is available in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Tagalog and Bosnian.

The survey’s results, as well as CDC guidelines and input from local health experts, will influence the district’s decision on how to open next school year, DCPS spokeswoman Sonya Duke-Bolden wrote in an email to WJCT News. It’s also not decided whether the district will continue to offer virtual or hybrid learning for students who do not feel safe returning to classrooms. 

While its policy for the next year is undecided, masks are mandatory indoors for the remainder of this school year  — though it’s not clear whether that includes the summer programs that begin next month. A call to the district to clarify that point hasn’t yet been returned, but this story will be updated if a response is received.   

Clay County School District

The Clay County School District is also working to finalize its 2021/2022 “Smart Restart” plan, according to John Sgromolo, the district’s coordinator of athletics.

The plan will be unveiled at the district’s June 3 School Board meeting, he said.

The district livestreams its school board meetings on its YouTube channel.

The Baker County School District and Putnam County School District have not announced their 2021/2022 plans and have not yet responded to WJCT News’ requests. This story will be updated to reflect their 2021/2022 policies when new information becomes available.

Image: File photo of masked elementary school students attending a math lesson. MARY ALTAFFER / ASSOCIATED PRESS

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