Lee County School Board to vote on getting rid of the mask "opt-out" amid COVID spike

Posted at 9:59 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 21:59:16-04

LEE COUNTY — The Lee County School Board will vote Tuesday night on whether they will direct Superintendent Dr. Ken Savage to impose a mask mandate in schools, in defiance of the Governor’s executive order.

Board members made that decision in a workshop Monday after talking with representatives from Lee Health and the Lee County Health Department. It was a last minute decision for board members looking at the rising numbers of teachers and students getting sick.

Right now, more than 13,000 students have opted out of the school mask mandate, so board members said, if people won’t wear masks willingly, they may have to make them. We spoke with Board Chair Debbie Jordan, who said she just learned some shocking numbers Monday.

"Today I received a phone call that there were 14 teachers out at one school. That’s just today, tomorrow there could be another 14 out. Who’s going to be there to teach our children?” said Jordan.

With a doctor from Lee Health on the phone, board members asked what would be the best course of action.

"Would a mask mandate in schools be safer for our students and our staff?” said board member Chris Patricca.

"In my medical opinion yes it would be," said Dr. Stephanie Stovall.

But a mask mandate for students and staff would directly violate Governor DeSantis’ executive order. He has even threatened to take away salaries from the Superintendent and board members if they make that move, but Jordan said, that’s not going to stop her.

"If that’s what they want to do to threaten to do that to us to make us not think about what is best for children, so be it," said Jordan.

But one woman spoke out at the meeting in protest.

"There are a number of people who cannot or should not wear masks, and having it mandated from the government is not appropriate," said Tara Jenner.

Jenner said this sudden decision is not giving people enough time to voice their opposition.

“It is already a quarter until five, and there’s no way they have the ability to craft that in an hour and 15 minutes to give us the 24 hour notice that’s required for us to be able to have public comment," said Jenner.

But Jordan said, the spread of COVID-19 isn’t slowing down, so they have to make a decision.

"We just have to do what we feel is best that we’re going to be able to lay our head down at night and sleep," said Jordan.

The motion will be brought up for a vote during Tuesday night’s action meeting at the Lee County Schools Administration Building at 6:00 p.m. The board will allow public comment.