Lee Schools superintendent issues 30-day mask mandate | News, Sports, Jobs
As part of the emergency powers granted by the school board last year, Lee County School’s principal Dr. Ken Savage, on Monday a 30-day mask mandate, the implementation of which is to begin on Wednesday.
“I just want to say that I am not wearing a mask. I don’t like to dress my children in masks and it really annoys me every day when I go into our schools and see children all over the district, many of whom are wearing masks. It looks impersonal, it feels unnatural, and it’s just a very annoying sign when I walk around our schools. I’m not a fan of masks and I’m not an expert on masks either. “ Said Savage on Monday afternoon. “When I implemented the amended policy using Policy 1.181, I found that the mask requirement could be declined by any parent under the Executive Orders of Governor DeSantis, and until Friday, the Governor’s Executive Order required simple parental deregistration. After a decision by the Leon District Court on Friday and a written report that will come today, this is no longer the case. “
Savage made the recognition decision in Judge Cooper’s decision that a mask mandate is clearly the jurisdiction of the county.
“Most masks are unable to filter out aerosolized particles. These aerosols are so small that they will move through most masks, and while the aerosolized virus can move this way, it is not the aerosolized virus that is the target of masks. To the best of my knowledge, the aim of the masks are respiratory droplets. Breathing droplets are expelled when speaking, certainly when sneezing, and breath droplets can contain significant amounts of virus. “ he said. “The use of masks indoors is considered one of the most important containment measures when there is not enough space for social distancing, as set out by the CDC and the vast majority of medical providers as well as our local medical community.”
The 30-day timeframe chosen to allow the district to have two 14-day periods to track transmission rates of the COVID-19 virus, Savage said, adding that the requirement will be relaxed once the district does so be able to.
Board attorney Kathy Dupuy-Bruno assured the members of the school board that the measure can be considered appropriate and necessary as it is narrowly defined.
Board member Chris Patricca said they were legally empowered to introduce a mask mandate with limited parental deregistration with medical exceptions.
Board member Betsy Vaughn said she would have liked to see a stronger metric of where they are on Monday.
“We are at the top of the mountain. How much of a decline would warrant withdrawal? “ She asked.
Savage said she had a very fair stand and the district had a duty to show transparency. He said the team will monitor and track the data.
“If we were to develop a hard metric, it would be in collaboration with local officials.” Savage said, adding that the threshold would be chosen with her partners. “Where we are now is undesirable. The intent is that we see a decline. We hope that this increase will pass. “
The public had the opportunity to talk about mandatory masks on Monday evening, although the board did not vote on the administrative mandate.
Before the 60 speakers had a minute to post their comments, guidelines were given to include their names, whether they lived in Lee County and how many children they had attending schools in the district. After three speakers gave their comments, there was a five-minute break, followed by two more ten-minute breaks before the end of the public comment.
Most of the comments concerned the parental right that a parent knows their child and should make decisions for their child. The speakers also claimed masking didn’t help.
One parent, Valinda Neeley, said that people have been masking for almost a year and a half that if masks worked, they wouldn’t have that discussion.
“The virus is still there. How long will we keep this charade going? How many variations are there left to make you feel like you have to keep masking? Suppressing people’s natural immune systems for a year and a half did nothing to eradicate this virus, and it will not this time either. Despite your desire for control, you will not be able to control this or us. If you are wearing a mask and want to give yourself the false sense of protection then by all means go for it. They work and you wear one then my child shouldn’t have to. You’re protected, logic, right? “ She said.
Another parent was a strong supporter of parenting choice, saying their children shouldn’t be the political pawns on the board.
“Our children are ours” She said. “My child who doesn’t cover her face has no influence on a child who covers yours.”
Another parent, Lindsay Young, pointed out the school board’s accountability policy.
“Nowhere does it say that you have the right to help me, raise my child or make decisions for me and my child.” she said, adding that they are awake “sleeping animal.”
Savage said any personal animosity and frustration should be directed towards the district staff rather than teachers and principals as the mask mandate is not a school-based decision. He said they would hold a meeting with the school principals on Tuesday to provide written guidance to students and teachers who do not wear a mask in school. Savage said they will try to work with the families as best they can by giving them options.
“I expect setbacks on the part of the employees” he said, adding that they will follow employment guidelines and go through progressive discipline.
CEO Debbie Jordan said these were difficult and stressful times.
“We know and understand that not everyone agrees on this issue. We understand that it is sensitive. We respect parental rights and try our best to protect our students and staff. We have a difficult equilibrium, and the superintendent’s decision today hits that balance and for a short time is very closely related to the health crisis in our community. Honestly, if a mask can protect or save a life, isn’t it worth it? Shouldn’t we do everything for our fellow human beings? For the teachers who are under so much stress, bus drivers, canteen workers, our employees, our students? Thirty days of inconvenience for the opportunity to protect and save a life. That’s what this is about. “
The board was re-briefed during its Monday meeting of the district’s health and safety protocols, which included statistics for the week ended August 26. Chief Engagement Officer Lauren Stillwell said there was a positivity rate of 21.3 percent in 639 isolated patients in the hospitals. 15 of them are children in the children’s hospital in Golisano. She said bed capacity in the hospitals has reached 100 percent.
Last week, the district released its COVID-19 Incident Log, which shows the total number of COVID-19 cases at each school and how many of them are students and staff, and accumulated since the first day of school on August 10th. Stillwell said it is important to keep in mind that the data can be delayed as the lab has 24 to 48 hours to report to the Department of Health.
The district received almost 3,500 reports, and 3,000 had to be processed by Monday afternoon from last Sunday to Saturday. The district is building additional staff and offering training to help during and after school. The district is also in the process of giving the Department of Health real-time access to the reports to expedite the process.
Board member Gwyn Gittens said if they are behind and DOH falls short on tracing, then during that time people who are contagious spread it to others.
“If it doesn’t cut the numbers, we’ll reconsider it.” she said about the mandate. “Thirty days of compromise. It’s been 30 days. That is all we ask for. “
Challenges also include absenteeism of teachers and students, availability of substitutes, arranging classes to meet needs, and students missing class time at home.
Vaughn said combining Classroom B with Classroom A complicates the problem as they currently rely on social distancing and other mitigation measures without masks.
“Now that the classrooms are doubled or more, we have too many people in one room and I wonder if we can even do backtracking.” She asked. “Can we still do some kind of contact tracing?”
Stillwell said when they combine classes they look for larger spaces and seating arrangements are still in use. She said masking doesn’t preclude quarantine.
“Even if we wear a mask, we are still quarantined. Masking can help prevent transmission, but it does not rule out quarantine. “ She said, adding that a student will be quarantined if identified as a close contact.
Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jeff Spiro said that when a student is not there, they are asked to switch to Google Classrooms, where teachers post their assignments and get them best. He said they also have tutoring services for students through Connect With Lee. Daily hours will be added on September 7th to allow students to network at home.
“The district staff will lead this endeavor” Spiro said about zoom links available by content area and grade level. “First the district administrators do it and then the district employees. We have over 70 time for this. “