Masks may soon become optional for students, staff at Manatee County schools 

Masks could soon be added to the list of items not required in Manatee County schools. 

"If you could have a middle ground on the mask policy or how to handle the pandemic, I really feel like it’s here," said School Board Chair Charlie Kennedy. 

School board members are mulling over changes that would include making masks optional for staff and students. Staff would still need their temperatures checked, but they could possibly see COVID questionnaire screenings disappear. 

"There is no playbook. We get advice from medical experts, we look at trends which happen and we make the best decisions with what we know," Superintendent Cynthia Saunders explained. 

What they do know is Manatee County's positivity rate has been at 6.49% for the last seven days. 

The board will allow Saunders to bring masks back under certain circumstances. That includes if the seven-day county positivity rate jumps above 8% or if cases were on the rise at specific schools. 

"What I like is it gives the superintendent flexibility not only if the community rate goes up, but if she sees an outbreak in a school you can make the masks mandatory just for that school and to get it down," said school board member Mary Foreman. 

READ Manatee County repeals COVID-19 mask mandate

While masks would not be mandatory district-wide, some parents said their children don't want them at all. 

"Enough is enough. You guys aren’t following science anymore. You’re following CDC," said Ryan Bray. 

Bray said students need to get back to normal. On top of that, he said students rarely wear masks and they often wear them wrong. 

"On May 17 my daughter is going in peaceful protest not wearing a mask," Bray shared. 

READ Surgeon general eases mask guidelines for fully vaccinated Floridians

Masks or no masks, School Board Chair Charlie Kennedy asked everyone for respect. 

"If Mr. Bray's daughter engages in a peaceful protest I think they should be treated with respect. If we make this optional and some students and employees still chose to wear a mask I think they should still be treated with respect," he said. 

Changes will be voted on by school board members on May 25. Changes would go into effect for summer school at the start of June. 

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