OCPS superintendent reinstates mask mandate for adults

As classes resume in schools today, Orange County Public Schools has opted to bring back a mask mandate for adults.

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On Monday, Jan. 3, Orange County Public Schools announced its plan to reinstate a mask mandate for adults. 

As the COVID-19 cases continue to surge as a result of the new omicron wave, OCPS stated that beginning today, Tuesday, Jan. 4, the mask mandate will be in place as classes resume after the Winter Break holiday. 

OCPS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins took to Twitter to confirm the update. 

"As a result of the significant increase in positivity rate, and in an effort to protect our workforce, I have determined that all adults including employees, visitors and vendors, will be required to wear a face mask in OCPS buildings and vehicles through the month of January," Jenkins tweeted. 

Orange County School Board Chairperson Teresa Jacobs also voiced her input on the mandate. 

"I appreciate the concern I've heard regarding the highly contagious nature of Omicron and the return to school," Jacobs said. "Although we are legally prohibited from mandating masks for students, I am relieved to say the superintendent is reinstating the adult mask mandate."

Although masks are only mandatory for adults, Jenkins said masks are "strongly encouraged" for students. 

“There is no requirement for students but face masks can add another layer of protection," Jenkins said. 

Like all school districts in the state of Florida, Orange County does not have the ability to mandate masks in schools for students, as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature outlawed it in 2021. 

In a press conference on Monday morning in South Florida, DeSantis said schools will not close.

“Our schools will be open in the State of Florida,” DeSantis said. “They (children) need to be in school, parents need to be assured that they’re going to be able to send their kids to school.”

However, the schools districts do possess the ability to offer the suggestion, as Seminole and Osceola have.

"For at least the month of January, we are encouraging parents to consider having their students wear a mask while indoors. In addition, we are encouraging staff, vendors, and visitors to do the same," the Seminole County school district said in its latest statement to parents.

OCPS said it has had inquiries about keeping children home due to increasing COVID-19 cases.

"While we are not encouraging parents to do so, if you choose to keep your child home, it will be excused if your child keeps up with their assignments," OCPS said. "Reach out to the teacher for schoolwork."

For more information and updates, visit the OCPS website or social media. 




Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.