TAMPA, Fla. - As the start date for Hillsborough County public schools looms closer and closer, there is growing concern from local health officials who believe that, for the safety of students and staff amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, students should be required to wear masks once they return to the classroom.
On Tuesday afternoon, a group of over 150 local doctors and pediatricians who treat students in Hillsborough County are presenting a letter to the school board, asking them to mandate masks for the upcoming school year.
In the letter, the doctors listed four main reasons for their request. They stated that masks would help to reduce the spread of the viral infection and reduce the chances of a possible outbreak of the virus, keeping schools from having to shut down their buildings to decontaminate.
The doctors also said it would help prevent parents or school staff having to take time off of work due to a sick student.
Finally, the doctors stated in their letter that having students wear masks would help health care workers conserve valuable resources and time since they’re not having to treat sick students.
Currently, the Hillsborough County School District does plan to provide reusable masks for their students and staff. However, for the students, it’s not a requirement to wear them, only a recommendation.
Another topic still up for debate is how students will return to the classroom. On Monday, the State Department of Education announced that schools will have to reopen their buildings this fall. Parents in Hillsborough County do still have an option, however, on how they want their child to return to the classroom.
The options consist of sending their child back to a face-to-face, traditional classroom setting, resuming e-learning through their assigned school, or attending a virtual school. That decision is binding for the first half of the year.
Parents were supposed to have voted on what they wanted by Friday, but the district has extended that deadline until Friday, July 17. The district stated that they want to give their parents more time to have a better understanding of what their options are and the chance to ask questions.
In the upcoming days, the district plans to have a virtual town hall meeting with Superintendent Addison Davis where parents can ask their questions and voice their concerns. The time and date for the meeting has yet to be announced.