Columbia County school board will no longer mandate face masks

The Superintendent recommended face masks to be mandatory but parents spoke out and said it should be their choice.
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 11:15 PM EDT
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LAKE CITY, Fla. (WCJB) - Face masks will no longer be required at Columbia County schools.

The school board approved a motion 3-2 to amend Superintendent Alex Carswell’s recommendation from requiring face masks to highly recommending them for students from grades 3-12.

Carswell recommended school board members require masks for students on the school bus or in areas where they can’t social distance.

“I believe I made the best decision I could to keep our students and staff as safe as possible during this pandemic,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of great things and all of a sudden March hits and all of a sudden now I’ve got to put on a hat that I’ve never had on.

“I think someone over here spoke about that, that we’re not experts, and I agree I’m no expert, and I agree we’re no expert,” added Carswell. “But our sole focus, and if you look at our mission statement, it’s to keep our schools safe.”

The initial recommendation included a waiver parents and guardians could sign to opt their student out of the mandate, however, one Columbia County parent does not agree.

“There’s lots of ways to combat the pandemic and putting a mask on our faces is not where I think our priorities should be,” said Tia Gainey.

Gainey, a mother to six kids in the Columbia County school system, voiced her concerns about the board implementing a mandatory face mask policy.

“I believe in school 100% but I’m not willing to sacrifice their health,” she explained. “I’m not willing to compromise with mandates such as masks. I feel like there are other ways that we can look at this. There are other ways we can take this on, and it’s not something I feel like we should fear.”

Columbia County schools are set to start on Aug. 24.

Copyright 2020 WCJB. All rights reserved.

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