Broward County Public Schools is relaxing the mask mandate for high school students.
Starting Nov. 1, Broward high school students will no longer be required to wear a mask, though they will be strongly encouraged to wear one.
The district will do this through a parent opt-out that allows parents to choose whether their children will wear a mask.
Mandatory masking will remain in place for middle and elementary school students.
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The school board voted 5-3 in favor of the change, noting that keeping younger students masked is important for now because the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available for children under age 12.
"I do feel very strongly with the middle and elementary school students because there's not an option for them to be vaccinated and they seem to be more touchy, feely, continue to have them with masks," school board member Dr. Rosalind Osgood said.
The school board had said that they would reassess the mask requirement as conditions in the pandemic changed. Board members noted that the COVID-19 positivity rate in Broward has been at or below 3% for at least 10 days.
Broward was among several state school districts that was penalized by the Florida Board of Education for instituting a school mask mandate without giving parents an opt-out.
"Virus transmission and hospitalization numbers have decreased in Broward County precisely because wearing a mask is a known factor in helping prevent virus transmission," the Broward Teachers Union said in a statement Tuesday. "Masks are not political statements and it’s unfortunate that groups within our society have made it one – and even more unfortunate that political leaders have used mandatory mask mandates to punish school districts for doing the right thing. The School Board showed today that threats and political games won’t deter them from prioritizing the safety and health of our students and staff."