TAMPA, Fla. - On a call with state and local education officials Thursday morning, Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis announced the school district will not be requiring students to wear protective masks when school resumes August 10.
They will, however, be providing re-usable masks for district employees, if they choose to use them.
“We would love to make certain that everyone had the appropriate PPE when they come to the classroom, but let’s look at Hillsborough County,” Davis explained. “When you have 220,000 students, for us to buy single-day, single-use masks for our children, it would cost $9 million a month in order to do so.”
Davis said the district will have a campaign to encourage parents to take proactive steps, and it will identify providers who sell masks at a reduced cost.
He said reusable masks were also in discussion, but some families may not have the resources to wash them every day.
“We will encourage our students to wear masks. But one thing we will do as a district is we will purchase a re-usable mask for every one of our employees," Davis continued. “They have so many touchpoints with so many children. If I’m teaching biology, then I have 125 students that I see on a daily basis.”
A district spokesperson later clarified that while the masks will be provided for staff, they will not be required to wear them.
Earlier this week, the district shared results from a reopening survey sent to local parents, and they were widely split over school getting back to normal in the fall. They found only 53% of parents were "somewhat comfortable, comfortable, or very comfortable" sending children back to classrooms.
Florida has set near-continuous daily records for new coronavirus cases over the last two weeks, with over 3,200 new cases reported Thursday alone. The rate of testing is increasing, as is the rate of positive tests.