OCPS Superintendent Barbara Jenkins defends district mask policy, slams new Florida quarantine rules in meeting with state Department of Education


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On Thursday, Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins defended the school district's decision to impose a mask mandate following a spike in COVID-19 cases among the district's students.

During a conference call between superintendents across the state and the Florida Department of Education, Jenkins stood by OCPS' decision.

"As constitutional officers, we take seriously our charge...to protect the health, safety and welfare of students. We believed requiring face masks in our schools was the best way to protect students and staff," she said. "The district must provide for the continuity of instruction. Required in-person learning is hindered if students are isolated due to infection or quarantined due to close contact exposure to COVID-19."

The call was put together to discuss a new rule allowing parents to decide whether or not their COVID-19-exposed child needs to quarantine. On that subject, Jenkins noted that the rule itself was contradictory.

"[OCPS] believes the Department of Health exceeded its grant of rulemaking authority [under the law] which states that the Department of Health may adopt rules governing “the control of preventable communicable disease,” she said. "Prohibiting districts from enforcing face mask usage would not control a preventable communicable disease. Allowing parents to send their student who has been exposed to close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual would not control preventable communicable disease."

Jenkins closed her time by noting that the face mask policy of OCPS is only in place through October 30, at which point they hope to return to an opt-out system.

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