Won’t wear a mask at your public school? You may have to learn from home.

Headlines

The Palm Beach Post | by Andrew Marra | August 18, 2020

Under proposed new rules, students would have to “avoid congregating” on campus and couldn’t share school supplies.

Students who refuse to wear masks in Palm Beach County public schools this year may be required to take their classes online instead.

New rules proposed this week by Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy call for all students to wear facial coverings on campus unless a medical doctor or school administrators grant an exemption.

Masks could be removed while eating or drinking, playing sports, performing on musical instruments or doing other strenuous physical activities, according to the proposed rules.

But students who refuse to wear facial coverings as instructed “will have consequences as outlined in the student code of conduct and may be assigned to Distance Learning,” the rules state.

The mask requirement, which requires school board approval, come as little surprise. Over the summer, several Florida school districts pivoted from making masks optional to requiring them.

The reopening of the school district’s roughly 180 campuses is still weeks or months away, but Fennoy told The Palm Beach Post last month that he intended to require masks when classrooms do reopen.

“We’re going to err on the side of caution,” he said.

School board members are scheduled to review the proposed rules Wednesday. If approved, they would expire after 90 days.

The mask requirement could face stiff resistance from some parents. In June, several spoke out at a school board to oppose mask mandates for children, saying they worried they could inhibit young children’s ability to breathe.

Any parents can keep their children at home to learn online this year, but parents opposed to masks are often among the most eager for in-person classes to resume.

Aside from wearing masks, the proposed rules require students to “avoid congregating” while moving around the campus and prohibit them from sharing school supplies.

Students who don’t have facial coverings will be provided with them, the rules state. Children exempted from wearing masks may be required to wear a face shield instead.

Masks must have ties or ear loops to keep them secured over the face. Bandannas and mesh material are prohibited.

The new guidelines bar students from showing up on campus at all if they have a cough, a sore throat or a fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Parents of students who test positive for COVID-19 are instructed alert their schools and keep the students home for at least 14 days after the student tests negative.

Principals are charged with facilitating contact tracing for students who test positive by asking the students for the names of any students outside of their classes with whom they had close contact. Close contact is defined as being within six feet of the student for more than 15 minutes.

In-person classes are not schedule to resume until the county has moved into Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, a move that requires sustained improvement in the rate of coronavirus infections.

With the number of new cases dropping in recent days, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said Monday that “the county is getting to a place where it is ready to move to Phase 2.”

“But,” he added, “I can’t put a time frame on it.”