In a 5-3 vote, the School Board of Broward County (SBBC) approved making face masks optional for high school students and district staff on Tuesday. The lifted mandate begins Monday.
Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) released a statement Tuesday with more information about the new mask policy, which does not extend to middle and elementary school students. They will still be required to wear masks on campus and in classrooms unless they have a medical exception. Additionally, masks are required for all participants in center or pre-k programs on high school campuses, such as Littlest Cowboys.
Despite there being no formal opt-out process for masks in high school now, face coverings are still encouraged.
“For our students who are in high school, we are going to strongly encourage you to go ahead and continue to wear the mask,” Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright said in a statement following the decision.
The new policy has garnered mixed reactions from CCHS’s student body.
“I think it’s endangering everyone who’s going [to school],” senior Malak Sadoumy said. “Not every single student [at CCHS] is vaccinated and an outbreak is definitely going to break out because of it.”
Junior Youssef Moussa thinks students and their parents should determine if the student is safe enough to be maskless on campus.
“I think [the new policy is] good since it allows students who feel as if their immunity is strong or have [gotten] the vaccine to take [it] off instead of being constantly bugged about wearing the mask,” Moussa said.
Sophomore Lizzie Driggers described her feelings about the new ruling as “mixed” but said she’s “glad to see everyone’s face again.”
The updated policy won’t really change things as mask-wearing is not consistent among his peers in junior Sammy Jacobs’ opinion.
“I honestly don’t think it’s going to make a difference either way because students already don’t wear their masks,” Jacobs said.
There has been no communication as to if elementary and middle schools will eventually be included in the mask-optional policy, but SBBC chair Dr. Rosalind Osgood hinted at the possibility after a vaccine for children 11 years old and younger is approved.
“We know that vaccines are available for those that are 12 [years old] and up,” Osgood said in a statement after the decision. “We have seen a huge increase in the number of individuals in Broward County that are vaccinated, both students and staff. We are very encouraged with the recent news that we could soon have a vaccination that is available to those [ages] 11 and under.”
Photo by Shira Aroshas