the board drops it for the withdrawal policy
Palm Beach County principals to drop the district’s student mask mandate in favor of an opt-out option with parental permission starting November 15 – a date that speeds up the existing two-week schedule , but is favored by Superintendent Mike Burke after consulting with local doctors.
Withdrawal notes submitted at the start of the year, around 12,000 at last count, will be honored and any parents who wish to send notes can do so at that time, Burke said.
Pressure from some board members to drop the demand for a note and simply allow the optional wearing of the mask failed to a 4-3 vote at their meeting on Wednesday. The matter could be revisited in the future.
The mandate discussion comes as the community spread of COVID-19 is on a downward trajectory and vaccinations become available for children aged 5 to 11 in Palm Beach County.
Why the decision in favor of the opt-out option on masks?
The combination “changes the landscape,” Burke told the school board.
“It’s a nice, stable trajectory down,” said Burke. After the meeting, he said: “I feel confident enough with the conditions and their trend – this is our date. Minor fluctuations in the data would not take me away from that.”
Following: Could the mask’s mandate be lifted earlier than expected at PBC schools?
Vaccines for children: COVID-19 vaccine available for children at Palm Beach County school sites this week
Before submitting the proposal to the board, Burke said he spoke with representatives from the Health Care District and the local Florida Health Department office as well as a handful of pediatricians on Wednesday morning.
Burke told the board the informal group would have preferred to wait four more weeks, when the parameters they approved and the board approved in early October would likely be met, but they agreed to support the shorter time frame.
The district intended to lift a warrant under the following conditions:
- The weekly positivity rate of cases remains below 8% for four consecutive weeks.
- COVID-19 vaccines are available for children 5 years of age and older.
- The average weekly number of new cases in the county remains below 50 per 100,000 population (about 750 cases in total) for four consecutive weeks.
The county’s case positivity rate has been below 8% for more than a month, and vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 were approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week.
The weekly number of new cases was 59 per 100,000 but is not expected to drop below 50 until this week or next. At this rate, the mask mandate would not have been lifted until December at the earliest.
Across the state, other districts that had defied the state and adopted warrants in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the fall began to ease their mask restrictions.
School board member Karen Brill, who put the issue on Wednesday’s agenda, said she had seen doctors in her own circle and argued, given the low rates of COVID-positivity. 19 and disease per capita that the mask’s mandate should cease immediately or by Monday to the last.
A school board member wanted to lift the mask mandate right away
“I’m disappointed. I really would have preferred that we did it immediately,” said Brill, who was also in favor of an optional mask policy. “It places a burden on our teachers and administrators if we refuse it. ”
Her fellow board members were willing to wait, with Marcia Andrews saying she was flexible but willing to follow Burke’s recommendation and Barbara McQuinn favoring Nov. 15 to give staff time to communicate expectations to parents.
“My idea is that I want this to end as soon as possible. I’m ready to have this withdrawn, but I think the best approach for public health is to wait until November 15,” said Erica, member of the board of directors. Whitfield.
This gives parents time to start immunizing their children and these children to start building their immunity. “I think it’s safe,” Whitfield said.
Retired doctor Debra Robinson said she would rather stick with the original plan and wait even longer.
She agreed with many critics of the mask’s mandate that children indeed have a lower viral load than adults and tend to be less contagious. “The problem is, when children get infected, they can pass it on to family members who, if they are at high risk, can die,” Robinson said. “That’s why we had to be so careful.”
Robinson said she worried about children who have lost one or both parents. “This is what I hope to prevent, in addition to multisystem inflammatory syndrome (a rare but serious disease associated with COVID-19).”
“I think our precautions have contributed to the significant drop in numbers,” said Robinson. “I believe we are saving lives.”
Should the mask policy be opt-out or optional?
“I fully agree with Dr Robinson,” said Alexandria Ayala, Board member. She noted that new variants of the disease have surfaced and the holidays are fast approaching. “We don’t want to have come this far, only to get so far.”
Regarding an opt-out policy versus a discretionary policy, Burke said he sees the opt-out as a natural setback from the tenure. This brings the district back to its policy at the start of the school year and within the state’s ongoing requirement that parents have an option, he said.
Board members Ayala, McQuinn, Robinson and Whitfield agree, with McQuinn saying she prefers an optional approach, but voted to support the superintendent’s wishes.
Robinson said she didn’t want teachers to become the mask police. “Kids should be able to take mask breaks in class. I’m good with mask breaks, but I would also really like parents to have to take action, which is to take off the mask. ”
While students can opt out, this is not yet an option for staff. Burke said he needs to speak to the various employee representatives before proposing a policy change for the employees.