Pinellas school leaders vote against holding special meeting to address mask mandates

In Pinellas County, masks are optional in the school district, but many parents want that to change. It appears they will not get their wish.

School board members in Pinellas County voted during their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday not to hold another special meeting on whether to require masks for students and staff. 

Before the meeting, a group of parents, teachers and doctors held their own press conference demanding their school board follow the lead of the state's largest districts, like Hillsborough County, to require – not simply suggest – that everyone inside schools wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

They wanted the school district to pass a 60-day mask mandate. They also want more timely updates from the district on positive cases inside classrooms.

The chief of the Infectious Disease Division of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Dr. Allison Messina, says a mask mandate makes common sense for several reasons: students under 12 can’t get vaccinated, the delta variant is much more contagious than the original, and this time, more kids are getting seriously ill. 

READ: Florida judge hears arguments over DeSantis’ school mask-mandate ban

"We are really reaching out to parents in the communities and letting them know putting on a mask will protect you," Dr. Messina said. 

As of Friday afternoon, the district reported 861 students have contracted the virus. Some parents claim those numbers are not accurate, that the district is undercounting cases and that their contact tracing is days behind.

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"I am more likely to get a notice about lice than I am about COVID exposure in my elementary school student’s classroom. That’s outrageous," parent Chrissy Krampert said.

As of Thursday, officials say more than 2,700 students had been quarantined.