The Orange County School Board discussed changing its mask protocols at an emergency meeting Thursday, Aug. 19.
Currently, OCPS students must wear masks unless their parents send a note opting them out of face coverings. However, Orange County School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs said she and the board will explore options to implement a mask mandate at the next School Board meeting Tuesday, Aug. 24.
On Wednesday, the Miami-Dade County school district, the fourth-largest in the country with 334,000 students, and the Hillsborough County School Board, which oversees the state’s third-largest district with more than 206,000 students in the Tampa area, joined Alachua and Broward counties in mandating students wear masks in schools, with exceptions only for medical reasons.
Hillsborough voted 5-2 to adopt a 30-day mask mandate, while Miami-Dade passed a similar mandate by a 7-1 vote.
Those districts' actions defy Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' order banning mask mandates in public schools. Those districts could face penalties, which could include salary cuts and possible removal from office.
Orange County officials have scheduled closed-door, one-hour emergency meeting Monday, Aug. 23, to discuss possible legal action against the state. Jacobs said she wants to hold a vote on requiring universal masks, within a few weeks.
Most school districts have adopted optional mask policies or given options to parents to opt out of requirements.
The OCPS COVID-19 dashboard shows more than 1,300 cases in Orange County schools, which Jacobs said is 23 times more than this time last year.
Orange County is of the nation's largest school districts and the fourth-largest in Florida.