Masks become mandatory on Monday morning for students, staff and visitors at all Sarasota County Schools and for those riding buses to and from campus, the superintendent said on Friday.
In a letter to school families, Superintendent Dr. Brennan Asplen explained that the district’s new rule applies “while at school, while on school property, during school-sponsored activities, and during School Board-provided transportation to and from school or school-sponsored activities, at all times while indoors or outdoors in a crowded setting. This includes spectators at all extracurricular activities.’’
Beginning Monday, students not wearing a face mask will be considered “out of compliance.” If students decline to wear a mask, parents or guardians will be called to pick them up from school.
Exceptions are made for students with medical exceptions on file. Gaiters, buffs, or bandanas may not be worn as an alternative to face masks.
The Sarasota County School Board voted 3-2 on Aug. 20 to adopt a 90-day policy mandating masks. The policy took effect Monday, Aug. 23, and Sarasota County Schools announced it intended for the mask requirement to be “fully implemented” by Aug. 30 after ironing out details.
At the time of the school board’s vote, the rule was considered a violation of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning such mandates without an opt-out clause for parents. On Friday, a Tallahassee judge overturned that rule, saying the governor had overstepped his authority.
The policy adopted by the board includes a clause that would eliminate the mask requirement if the positivity rate of COVID-19 tests in Sarasota County falls below 8% for three consecutive days. The policy would reactivate if the county had three consecutive days with a positivity rate above 10%.
On Aug. 26, the Sarasota County Department of Health reported the county’s single-day positivity rate for COVID-19 tests was 15.42% with a 14-day average of 15.35%. According to the school district’s online COVID-19 dashboard, more than 1,800 students and staff have tested positive since July 1, with about 200 currently isolated after testing positive.
Manatee County's school board voted 3-2 on Aug. 24 to extend its mask mandate with an opt-out option for students and employees until Oct. 29.
“I know we can help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community – and help move our community’s positivity rate below 8% – if we work together and use all mitigation efforts possible,’’ Asplen wrote. “Wearing a face mask is showing you care.”