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Hillsborough County Schools amends mask mandate to allow for parental opt-outs

The change to the mask mandate will be in place by the start of school on Thursday.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County Public Schools has amended the requirements needed to be met for parents to opt their student out of wearing a mask at school. 

The School Board met Tuesday evening to vote on whether or not to allow a parental opt-out of the school system's mask mandate. 

Around 7:30 p.m., school board members voted to remove the medical exemption opt-out and default back to the district's original mask mandate allowing for parental opt-outs.

Parents will be required to fill out a form before sending their students to school without a mask, even if they've done so previously, according to the school district. The change will go into effect by the start of school Thursday, Oct. 7.

"In making this decision, the Board reviewed the most recent COVID rates for Hillsborough County, as well as the rate of isolations and quarantines of students and staff over the past seven weeks. The rates and number of cases have decreased significantly since the most recent face-covering mandate, providing the Board some insight into the impact that the previous decision had in our schools," the district wrote in a press release.

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Previously Hillsborough County Public Schools decided to keep its mask mandate in place after receiving a letter from Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran threatening to withhold the salaries of school board members if it remained.

DeSantis earlier this summer signed the "Parents' Bill of Rights," aimed at protecting caretakers' choices over a child's health and upbringing. In July, he signed an executive order that banned districts from enacting mask mandates.

However, Hillsborough County Public Schools says its policy allows parents to opt out. The school district requires students, teachers and staff to mask up, with an opt-out available to students for medical reasons as long as they submit a doctor's note.

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