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Leon school teachers and staff are back to wearing masks amid COVID-19 surge

Ryan Dailey
WFSU Public Media

Leon County students return to school tomorrow (Wednesday) and the district cannot require them to wear masks, though superintendent Rocky Hanna says he is strongly encouraging them to do so. All campus visitors—and staff who cannot maintain social distance—will have to wear face coverings. Hanna says that’s the best the district can do given limitations placed on them by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-led state legislature.

“This time, even though we may want to require students to wear masks through the end of January, we don’t have that luxury because the legislature made that decision not only for Leon County but all counties throughout the state of Florida—that they know best how to protect our children," Hanna said during a Tuesday press conference regarding the district's COVID-19 policy.

The state has drastically curbed local school districts' ability to issue their own mandates amid the coronavirus pandemic. Parents that are keeping their kids away from school or in quarantine will need to contact their school. The district is setting up testing sites and is sending that information out to families through the Peach Jar system.

Leon County school teachers will also be required to wear face coverings when classes resume. It’s an update to the district’s COVID-19 policies amid a surge of infections due to the omicron variant. Superintendent Rocky Hanna notes the growth of infections comes as Leon County Schools remains short-staffed, especially in bus drivers.

“We don’t have people with CDL licenses, every person is driving multiple routes. We have exactly the same number of drivers as we have routes. So if you have one driver that calls in, people are having to fill that route. If you have 10 of the 150 bus drivers, then it becomes problematic. That’s a real concern," Hanna said.

The newest iteration of COVID-19 is causing cases numbers to rise drastically, but deaths associated with it remain low.

Florida State University and Florida A&M University along with Tallahassee Community College are also expecting students to wear face coverings while on campus, but are stopping short of making that a mandate. Most classes remain in-person.

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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