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What back-to-school will look like this year in Leon County

Masks will stay optional for everyone
Posted at 6:32 PM, Jul 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-02 10:31:47-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Looking ahead to masks in schools, Superintendent of Leon County Schools, Rocky Hanna, said if things get worse, if hospitalizations of children go up, the district could look at bringing back their mask mandate. ABC 27 is breaking down the plan as it stands for the return to school this year:

With students coming back to in-person learning, parents will have options this school year in Leon County. Hanna said "your children are safe that's my number one job, my number one priority."

Big changes are unfolding in Leon County's back-to-school plan; students who are fully vaccinated will not have to quarantine, even if they have been exposed to COVID-19. This comes after Hanna decided masks will remain optional and it is a family's personal choice to mask up. He added "I just can't in good conscience put 5, 6, and 7 year olds in masks again everyday all day."

If parents aren't comfortable sending their kids back in-person, the Leon County Virtual School is open for enrollment. LCS leaders will ensure that all schools distance as much as possible and the school board's goal is to get all 30,000 students back in-person so they can get the highest quality of education. Hanna exclaimed "teachers doing what they do best is engaging one-on-one, eye-to-eye as opposed to try and remote the kid in from home."

Kim Starlow, with the Leon Classroom Teacher Association, told ABC 27 that they will still use their digital canvas portal so kids can stay up to date on assignments if they're out sick. She said teachers will continue to do everything to keep their students safe but are excited for them to catch up on learning. Starlow brought up the point that "social distancing in my classroom will still be very important, COVID did not go away even though we want to return to normal it won't be 100% normal."

The Leon Classroom Teacher Association sent out a survey to teachers on Monday to ask them how they're feeling going back to school with masks being optional. Those results will be released on Wednesday which the association will present to the school board.

If students are exposed to COVID-19 and have not been vaccinated, a 10-day quarantine is still required. On day 7, students can take a rapid test and come back to school on day 8 if it's negative. Leon County Schools is rolling out a new platform on their website Tuesday...with everything parents and students need to know about coming back "In Class".

Hanna said he is "thinking of the good of the whole, rather than the conditions of the few..." in finalizing the decision to keep masks optional. He described that he could see the despair on kids' faces when they had to wear masks all day last year. Under the current plan in place, LCS recommends students and teachers wear a mask when indoors if they're not vaccinated.