TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The Leon County Board voted Tuesday night to uphold the K-8 mask mandate with medical opt-out announced by Superintendent Rocky Hanna on Sunday.
All public school children K-8, those under the age of 12, in Leon County will be required to wear facial coverings inside school buildings and on school district transportation without the parental opt-out option. The only exceptions are for students with certain medical conditions.
WATCH THE BOARD MEETING BELOW:
While some parents are thanked Superintendent Rocky Hanna for the K-8 mask mandate, others, including some Board members, say he should follow the law passed by Governor on DeSantis banning mask mandates in public schools.
"I don't think us asking children that are most vulnerable ages 5-11 [to wear a mask] is asking too much, and we have a compelling reason to do so," said Hanna.
School board member DeeDee Rasmussen says while safety is important, she feels the Superintendent should have waited for the board.
Rasmussen says she supports following the law and Hanna should have instead taken the challenge to a courtroom
Rosanne Wood offered "support" for Hanna and the mask mandate and suggested making masks part of the dress code.
"I choose to live up to my constitutional obligation to protect the safety and health of our children," said Wood.
Rasmussen said her position was not an attack on Hanna, but that she took an oath to follow the law.
"We should continue to be in compliance with the law or seek other remedies that are legal," Rasmussen said.
"If someone had not dissented [from the law] I would still be a slave. So, for me, I have no problem standing with the superintendent," said Board member Daryl Jones. "As painful as it is, I must dissent."
Georgia "Joy" Bowen, the Chair of the Board, said the Board and the community are still together in everything done.
"We've been mad, we've been sad, we've been called out of our names," Bowen said. "How badly will Rocky get beaten up? How badly will the rest of us get beaten up? What do we do? All about some masks... Is it really about some masks? We will do the right thing, what we need to do for the children."
"It is in the state's interest to keep all children safe," said Hanna. "At the end of the day, we may agree to disagree... We can resolve these differences."
Hanna said a committee would meet to discuss the needs of individual children if necessary.
Rasmussen made a motion to direct the superintendent to comply with the law, which was seconded by Striplin. The motion failed, 2-3.
Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna has taken a strong stance, going against the Governor's Orders and making masks mandatory for students in kindergarten through eighth grade with which many parents speaking at Tuesday's meeting disagreed.
"You're going against the law," was heard from dozens against a mask mandate for LCS.
Hanna's move could come with strong consequences.
Last week, the Florida Department of Education gave school districts in Broward and Alachua counties -- which are also requiring masks for students with no opt-out provision -- 48 hours to comply with state law or have the salaries of school board members cut.
Both districts stood firm and said they're not changing their mask mandates.
But, Hanna is not in the same situation. He was elected as superintendent. The superintendents in Alachua and Broward were appointed.
"I understand that I'm the first elected superintendent to take this action and I also fully understand the potential consequences, but those consequences don't come close when you compare it to a child's life," Hanna said. "Appointed superintendents work at the discretion of the board. As an elected superintendent, elected by the voters of Leon County, I'm subjected to potentially be sanctioned, or fined or removed by the Governor. Appointed superintendents are not."
The Board also voted to give all LCS employees a $1,000 bonus check, to include those who were not included in DeSantis' bonus check and extended COVID leave for up to two weeks for all employees.
COVID extended leave, as explained by Pam Faulkner, Director of Benefits, Leave, and Retirement for Leon County Schools:
Leon County Schools is providing up to 10 days (80 hours) of paid administrative leave to leave-eligible employees related to COVID-19 aka Coronavirus. Beginning July 1, 2021and ending June 30, 2022, you may be eligible for this leave if you are unable to work, and have the following reasons:
· You have been directed by the COVID Czar to get tested and are waiting for test results
· You are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for test results
· You have tested positive for COVID-19
To request this leave, complete the attached COVID Administrative Leave Request form as well as supporting documentation within 30 calendar days of the return to work date and email them to COVIDLeave@leonschools.net for approval. Forms and documentation received later than 30 calendar days of the return to work date will not be considered for COVID leave. This form is also located on the District’s website under Departments and Leave Accounting.
All employees must use their own leave if they are absent from work. Once the COVID leave request is submitted and approved, the employee’s personal leave will be removed from Skyward and COVID leave will be entered.
Please make sure this new form is used when requesting leave July 1st– June 30th.
If you were quarantined from July 1st – today’s date, you may submit the attached form and supporting documentation now. These requests must be received within 30 calendar days of the date of this email to be considered. If approved, your personal leave request will be removed from Skyward and COVID leave will be granted.