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St. Lucie County School Board votes to maintain mask policy

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The St. Lucie County School Board voted Tuesday evening to continue giving parents the choice to opt-out their children from wearing masks in schools.

The opt-out option only applies to students, and not teachers or staff.

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The board was initially split on the issue, but eventually voted 3-2 to keep the policy as is.

The latest: WPBF 25 News coverage on COVID-19

Some parents asked the board to eliminate the mask mandate altogether, but that was never discussed by the board.

Instead, Superintendent Wayne Gent proposed maintaining the current mandate, which includes an opt-out for students who don’t want to wear a mask.

Gent pointed out that both cases and the positivity rate are dropping in the school district.

He also said nearly 90% of students are currently wearing a mask.

Board member Jack Kelly agreed with Gent and voted to keep the opt-out in the policy.

“If the parents don’t want their children to wear a mask or if they have a problem with it, they should have that freedom to say no, they don’t want them to wear a mask,” Kelly said.

What you need to know: Tracking COVID-19 in Florida: Tracking cases, vaccinations and more

Board member Troy Ingersoll was also against a universal mandate.

“Our teachers are doing the best job they can, but how do you learn pronunciation without seeing a teacher’s lips?” he asked.

But board member Donna Mills argued against allowing parents to opt-out their children.

She wanted the mask mandate to apply to all students except those who have a medical exception.

“This is a deadly virus. I want my children well,” Mills said. “And I know you want your children well, as well.”

Board member Jennifer Richardson agreed with Mills.

“Just looking at the numbers, they indicate the schools that have the highest opt-outs have the highest COVID cases,” she said.

In the end, the board voted to continue to allow parents to opt their children out of the mask mandate.

However, they also said they could always change their minds next month, depending on the progression of the virus.

This meeting comes after the policy was reinstated in mid-August.

Previous coverage: St. Lucie County School Board votes to reinstate mask mandate

Before recommending the mask mandate, District Superintendent Wayne Gent said in August that about 500 students were forced to miss the first day of school because of COVID-19-related issues. He said 84 teachers and staff were also forced to miss school because of quarantines.

To go to the St. Lucie County Schools COVID-19 dashboard, click here.

READ THE FULL STORY:St. Lucie County School Board votes to maintain mask policy

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