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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021 4 months ago

OCPS mandates masks for employees, visitors

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The announcement comes after a record number of new COVID-19 cases countywide.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

Following a record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases countywide, Orange County Public Schools announced it will require all employees and visitors to wear face masks.

The mandate goes into effect Friday, Aug. 6, and for the next 30 days. Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins said OCPS employees must wear masks while inside district facilities or vehicles and in the presence of others.

Additionally, all visitors entering OCPS facilities — including volunteers, vendors, parents and guardians — also will be required to mask up. The district continues to strongly encourage parents to consider using face masks for their children while inside schools.

“This extra layer of mitigation will provide some protection to employees and students as we continue to monitor community trends in consultation with medical experts,” Jenkins said. “A determination to end or extend the requirement will be made prior to the end of the 30-day period.”

As of July 27, Orange County’s positivity rate was at 19.18%. Since the start of the pandemic, the county has seen 160,503 positive COVID-19 cases and 1,390 deaths. The rise in cases and positivity rates prompted Mayor Jerry Demings to declare a local state of emergency last week.

In mid-July, the School Board voted to make masks optional for the 2021-22 school year. However, the amended policy also grants Jenkins the authority to update it as needed depending on local COVID-19 conditions.

“I believe OCPS must do its part as responsible citizens of this great community,” Jenkins said. “The governor’s executive order prohibits mandatory masks for students and indicates financial penalties and more for districts who disregard his order. But we must make every effort within our control to protect students and employees. I do not take these matters lightly.”

Jenkins said other mitigation strategies OCPS is taking include direction to stay home when not feeling well; frequent cleaning and disinfecting of facilities; regular hand washing/sanitizing; social distancing when feasible; access to free testing for the virus; strongly encouraging voluntary face masks for students; and encouraging vaccine consideration in consultation with health care providers.

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Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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