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School board to consider amending mask policy to disallow gaiters and bandanas

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

The Alachua County School Board will consider changes to its existing facial covering policy this Tuesday at its 6 p.m. meeting. The agenda for the meeting, along with instructions for participating, can be found here.

Changes to the face mask policy are found on page 23 of the document attached to Action Item 7: “Adoption of Amendments to Board Policies related to purchasing and contracting for services, petty cash, school safety and security, and protective facial coverings/masks- First Reading.”

The policy itself was adopted on October 20, 2020, and it says that the Superintendent may require all school staff, volunteers, and visitors to wear appropriate face masks/coverings “during times of elevated communicable disease community spread.”

The amended policy further states that “Facial masks/coverings generally should not include surgical masks or respirators unless medically indicated (as those should be reserved for healthcare workers. Masks designed to be worn for costume purposes and facial masks/coverings with respiration valves or vents are prohibited. Neck gaiters and bandanas should not be worn unless no other face covering is available.” The language concerning neck gaiters and bandanas is part of the proposed changes.

Other amendments include changing “wear appropriate face masks/coverings on school grounds” to “wear appropriate face masks/coverings while on District property or attending District events” and deleting “Teachers, staff members, and students, at the direction of the teacher, may remove their face coverings when wearing them would impede instruction.”

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The policy allows some exceptions if “documentation from a medical provider” is on file for “persons who have difficulty breathing or suffer sensory issues due to a documented medical or psychological issue.”

It is noteworthy that the policy does not require the declaration of a public health emergency–the decision to activate the policy is solely the Superintendent’s. The policy also does not define “elevated communicable disease community spread” or give any guidance on when the policy should be deactivated.

It is also noteworthy that the only generally-available masks that have manufacturing/quality standards–surgical masks and respirators–are explicitly discouraged.

  • We are not in a pandemic or even an epidemic now. The School board needs to look at the falling numbers and understand science. Masks are unhealthy. Fresh air even better! Continue social distancing, hand washing in the routines if the classrooms (most elementary teachers don’t and just substitute hand sanitizer on filthy hands). The school district needs to provide soap and paper towels better as well. Keep tissue boxes in classes and not expect teachers to provide at low income schools where kids don’t donate. Teachers often dig out if their own pockets for hand soap, tissues, paper towels, hand sanitizer and more. There needs to be provision fir this by the district rather than masks. Masks are not necessary but basic hygiene supplies are.

    I quit teaching there as I could believe the lack of support teachers got from administration and school board. Thank goodness I had 27 years in California teaching at with children of poverty and knew what great schools, administration and a caring school board should be like.

  • These people are out of control. The Alachua County Emergency Declaration states that a “demonstrable medical condition” negates the mandate, but these people insist on a doctor’s note. They are not interested in people’s health. They are interested in their own political agenda only. Numbers are way down. People are being vaccinated. Just stop being afraid of everything. You will find that life is much more enjoyable that way.

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