Seminole elementary school students now likely to wear face masks for most of day

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Orlando Sentinel | Leslie Postal | August 4, 2020

In a change from original plans, all Seminole County public school students likely will need to wear face masks in their classrooms when the new school year starts Aug. 17.

The school district’s reopening plan approved in July said elementary students could remove their masks while working at their desks.

But based on advice from health experts, and in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus on campuses, Superintendent Walt Griffin said he’ll recommend that all students keep their face masks on for most of the school day.

“Please use the next two weeks to get your student comfortable with properly wearing a mask,” he wrote in a message sent to parents Monday.

Griffin said he’ll ask the Seminole County School Board to adopt the change at its Aug. 11 meeting.

“I will be recommending that masks be worn whenever students and employees cannot socially distance,” he wrote.

Other Central Florida school districts plan to have similar rules in place when their campuses open later this month, too. The Orange County school district, for example, said it will be hanging signs in its schools that read, “face masks required.”

So far, about 44% of Seminole’s nearly 70,000 students are expected back on campus for face-to-face lessons when the 2020-21 school year begins in two weeks. The rest are to take part in online programs that will allow them to study from home.

Students on campus will be able to remove masks while eating, drinking or taking part in high-intensity physical activities but will need to wear them on buses, in hallways and in classrooms.

Young children’s ability to wear face masks for hours prompted lots of debate online among parents as they weighed which educational option to choose for their children. Like many other Florida school districts, Seminole offered parents several choices for the coming school year.

“I’m worried about my son keeping a mask on for 90 mins,” one mother wrote on the Seminole schools Facebook page.

Griffin said there will be some exceptions for students with certain medical conditions. “We will continue to accept medical documentation regarding students’ inability to wear masks and make appropriate accommodations, when possible,” Griffin’s message said.

Parents who are “not comfortable with increased mask use in our schools” can also choose to have their children take part in live, online classes instead, he added.