August 30, 2021
Last week AFT and FEA joined CTA to support our efforts to institute a universal mask mandate and restore the health and safety protections that were in place last year, but were unilaterally eliminated by the District before school began.
We know that CDC-recommended protections can reduce the spread and the number of quarantines so more uninterrupted teaching and learning can take place. The positive case count this August (3,910) has surpassed the total positive case count for August, September, October, November, December and the first two weeks of January for the last school year. Let that sink in. We must continue to advocate for safe and healthy schools!
On Monday CTA held a press conference to urge the Superintendent and School Board to adopt a universal mask mandate to protect our students, employees and community. I was joined by FEA President Andrew Spar, Rep. Anna Eskamini, pediatrician Candis Jones, nurse practitioner Laura Hollenberger from AdventHealth, Reverend Gail Gardner, parent Lora Vail from Mask-Up OCPS, and representatives from the Orange County Education Justice Alliance and our sister unions.
On Friday, Judge John Cooper from the Florida Second Judicial Circuit ruled that local school districts could enforce a mask mandate. Ironically, he cited the Parents' Bill of Rights as giving the school districts the right to impose the mask mandates. Governor DeSantis and the spokespeople for the anti-maskers groups cited the Parents' Bill of Rights as a reason to allow masks to be optional in schools. In his two-hour long ruling the judge stated parents' rights cannot infringe on the rights of others. Orange County is among ten school districts that currently have the universal mask mandate. Learn more at this link.
Today the OCPS universal mask mandate goes into effect. All adults and children will be required to wear masks while inside school buildings and on buses, per the change in policy decided at the August 24, 2021 School Board Meeting.
Hopefully, it will reduce the spread and the number of quarantines so more uninterrupted teaching and learning can take place. It should provide students and employees with more protection, which is especially critical for those children under 12 who are ineligible to get a vaccine and the medically compromised.
We understand that teachers will be required follow the Student Code of Conduct in directing students’ mask wearing, and employees who are out of compliance will be referred to Professional Standards. Please ask your administrators for guidance, if they have not provided it.
As the policies and procedures continue to evolve, if you should need assistance please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, school or worksite and detailed message.