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West Orange Times & Observer Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021 2 months ago

Does data show a correlation between mask opt-out and COVID-19 cases in West Orange-area schools?

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The Orange County School Board will consider defying Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order and institute a mask mandate.
by: Michael Eng Editor and Publisher

Editor's note: This is based on data published on the Orange County Public Schools COVID-19 Dashboard as of Saturday, Aug. 21, and by the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association.

The Orange County School Board is scheduled to discuss plans to institute a mask mandate during two meetings next week.

The first — a Monday, Aug. 23, closed-door meeting with its attorney — will focus on potential legal issues surrounding issuing a challenge to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ mask-mandate ban. The School Board then is slated to discuss the topic again at its next meeting Tuesday, Aug. 24. 

Currently, OCPS students must wear masks unless their parents send a note opting them out of face coverings. According to data published by the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, district-wide, 7.6% of students have submitted opt-out notes — 12,884 of OCPS' 169,114 enrolled students.

“I am fully in support of putting mandates back in place,” Orange County School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs said during a board work session Thursday, Aug. 19.

However, data from Orange County Public Schools’ COVID-19 Dashboard and the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association about West Orange and Southwest Orange OCPS schools do not seem to show a direct correlation between confirmed COVID-19 cases and the number of parents who have opted their children out of the current mask mandate.

For example, among the seven public high schools in West Orange and Southwest Orange, Windermere High School had the highest percentage of students opting out of the current mask mandate (21%). However, as of Saturday, Aug. 21, its 13 confirmed COVID-19 cases (.43% of the total student population) is the lowest among all seven schools. 

At the middle school level, SunRidge Middle had the highest percentage of students opting out of the mandate (16.4%). However, SunRidge Middle's nine confirmed cases since Aug. 2 (.69% of the total student population) places it at No. 4 of the nine middle schools in West Orange and Southwest Orange.

At the elementary school level, SunRidge Elementary tops all West Orange and Southwest Orange elementary schools for the highest percentage of confirmed COVID-19 cases (2.37%). However, SunRidge Elementary also has one of the lowest opt-out percentages among all West Orange and Southwest Orange elementary schools (6.3%). Similarly, Westbrook Elementary has a 5.4% opt-out percentage, but its 2.29% confirmed COVID-19 cases is No. 2 among local elementary schools.

Conversely, Windermere Elementary has the highest opt-out percentage of all area elementary schools (30.8%), but its seven cases account for 1.17% of the total student population and places it at No. 17 among the area’s 24 elementary schools.

See below for data on all West Orange- and Southwest Orange-area schools.

 

 

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Michael Eng is the editor and publisher for the West Orange Times & Observer, West Orange Observer, Baldwin Park Living magazine and OrangeObserver.com. He is a 2000 graduate of the University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism....

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