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Many Bay District Schools' Employees Not Wearing Masks, Despite Districtwide Policy

North Bay Haven Charter Academy
North Bay Haven Charter Academy and Secondary School in Panama City.

Many Bay County teachers, staff and students weren’t wearing masks on the first day of school, despite the district’s last-minute decision to issue a mask requirement for employees and visitors over the weekend.

Bay District Schools' Superintendent Bill Husfelt sent a letter to parents Sunday urging them to send their children to school wearing masks. In the letter, he also announced the district's indoor mask requirement for all employees and visitors when social distancing isn’t possible.

Husfelt sent the letter in response to the recent surge in local COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

School Board Member Jerry Register visited several schools before Tuesday's board meeting. He says he visited classrooms at Deer Point Elementary School, Southport Elementary, Lynn Haven Elementary and North Bay Haven Charter Academy. "I was surprised at North Bay Haven," Register said. "I think it’s already been mentioned that their staff, their teachers did not have masks.”

In classrooms he visited, he estimates about 25 —30% of the students were wearing masks, Register said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently issued an executive order directing Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to withhold school board member salaries in districts that require students to wear masks.

District leaders, however, may encourage students to wear masks. The order also doesn't bar them from requiring school employees and visitors to wear face coverings.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.