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Leon School District Releases Mask Opt Out Data

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Valerie Crowder
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WFSU News
A school zone in Tallahassee

Leon County Schools is now posting the number of people opting out of the district’s mask policy. The data has been added to the district's COVID-19 dashboard which also shows the number of quarantined staff and students at each school.

Leon County Schools is now posting the number of people opting out of the district’s mask policy. The data has been added to the district's COVID-19 dashboard which also shows the number of quarantined staff and students at each school.

The school with the highest number of mask opt-outs is Chiles High School—located near the Florida-Georgia State Line. More than 570 students have made use of the parental opt out at the school as of Wednesday afternoon.

The schools with the next highest number of parents opting their kids out of wearing face coverings are Deerlake and Montford Middle, and Roberts and Killearn Lakes Elementary.

The data also shows a correlation between opt-outs and socio-economic boundaries—with higher income and less diverse areas of the district showing higher rates of mask opt outs.

Leon Schools has changed its mask policy several times. Going from a voluntary one for students, to a mandatory one allowing only medical opt outs—and now to allowing parents to opt their kids out of wearing face coverings. More than 2,500 opt out forms have been signed. There are more than 30,000 students currently enrolled in the district.

Leon County Schools has changed its position on mask wearing over time. Student mask wearing was initially slated to be voluntary, as the district relied on data showing children ere rarely impacted by the virus. However, the Delta variant has caused increases in pediatric COVID-19 cases, and Superintendent Rocky Hanna changed the policy to a mandatory one with a medical-only opt out ahead of the start of the school year. He later reversed course, and allowed a parental opt out following threats by the state board of education and Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

Still, despite the numbers, a majority of students are choosing to wear masks to school. More than 140 positive cases of covid-19 have been reported since the first day of school. Some 641 Leon County students were in quarantine as of Tuesday.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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