The changes come after a growing national vaccination campaign in which children as young as 12 are eligible to get shots, and a general decline in recent months in COVID hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S.
In Marion County, some parents have been petitioning the Marion County School Board for weeks to lift the mask requirement for the new school year, which begins on Aug. 10. The board agreed to make masks optional for summer school but deferred deciding on the new school year. Summer school, which started on June 1, includes nearly 6,000 students. Regular school sessions include upwards of 40,000 students.During a June 30 special school board meeting, Chairwoman Nancy Thrower suggested the board take up the mask issue. However, Board Member Eric Cummings felt it was best to wait until closer to the start of the new year.
The nation’s top public health agency is not advising schools to require shots for teachers and vaccine-eligible kids.
The guidance generally leaves it to local officials to figure out how to ensure the unvaccinated are using precautions while letting those who are fully protected go mask-free. The biggest questions will be at middle schools where some students are eligible for shots and others aren’t.
At some of the nation’s largest school districts, widespread mask-wearing is expected to continue this fall. In Detroit’s public schools, everyone will be required to wear a mask unless everyone in the classroom has been vaccinated. Philadelphia will require all public school students and staff to wear masks inside buildings, even if they have been vaccinated. Masks won’t be mandated in Houston schools.
The Ocala Gazette staff contributed to this report.