Last week Lake County Schools Superintendent Diane Kornegay proposed a plan that would require students and staff at schools with the highest COVID-19 positivity rates to wear masks until the rates drop. Masks would continue to be strongly encouraged, but not required, at schools with lower positivity rates. Kornegay called the proposed policy “a risk-based, data-driven system that allows for a targeted rather than a sweeping approach” to help reduce the spread of the virus in schools and the growing number of students being sent home for quarantines because of exposure. School Board took no action on the plan at their special meeting on September 2, however, it plans to vote at its Thursday, September 9th special meeting. Under the new policy, staff would review the positivity rate for each school over a two-week period. Any school with a positivity rate below 3 percent would be categorized as “Green.” Those between 3 and 4.9 percent would be identified as “Yellow.” Those at 5 percent or higher would be classified as “Red.” When a school reaches “Red,” students, parents and staff would be notified and masks would be required until the positivity rate at the school drops below 5 percent and is maintained for 14 calendar days. “If the fire alarm goes off at Treadway Elementary, we don’t evacuate the students at Beverly Shores Elementary,” Kornegay told the board in her presentation on September 2. “But we react to the alarm at Treadway. Looking at the data, we can see that the alarm has gone off at Treadway, which has a positivity rate of 8.27 percent (for Aug. 16 – 27) while the positivity rate at Beverly Shores has remained under 2 percent.” Other Lake schools in the “Red” zone based on data from Aug. 16-27 included: ·Seminole Springs Elem – 6.00% ·Umatilla Elementary – 6.88% ·Eustis Middle – 6.83% ·Mount Dora Middle – 6.41% ·Umatilla Middle – 7.01% ·Umatilla High – 5.70% Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order prohibiting school districts from implementing mask requirements without allowing parents to opt out, and the superintendent’s proposal allows parents to opt out of having their child wear a mask, even when their school has a positivity rate higher than 5 percent. To initiate an opt-out, parents would be asked to complete a form or send a letter to the school. Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper recently ruled that the governor’s order is unconstitutional. But the governor’s order remains in effect until the judge’s final written order is submitted. If the law changes and the School Board approves Kornegay’s proposal as it currently stands, Lake County schools that move into the “Red” category would require masks and accept parent opt-outs for medical reasons only. Under this scenario, students whose parents opt against them wearing a mask when their schools are in the “Red” zone could choose to allow their children to temporarily work from home without being marked as absent. They would complete assignments through Google Classroom with the help of teachers from the district’s Lake Assist after-hours student support program until the positivity rates drop and the mask requirement is lifted.
The September 9th special meeting will begin at 9:30 at the Lake County Administration Building, rather than the school district office. The livestream of the meeting is available here.