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Mask enforcement policies differ for school districts across Tampa Bay

After a photo of a school hallway in Georgia featuring students without masks went viral, here's how local districts plan to enforce the policy.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — One of the only tools we have against preventing COVID-19 is wearing a mask. As schools reopened in Georgia this week, students were seen in crowded hallways without them.

Every school district in the Tampa Bay area is requiring masks for students and teachers, but it is one thing to require them -- and another to enforce them.

10 Tampa Bay looked into and reached out to each district in our area in regard to their mask policy. Several districts have the policy up on their websites, clearly stated for parents.

In Hernando and Pasco County schools, students will receive reminders, then meetings with parents and ultimately an evaluation to decide if in-person learning is possible for them. Leaving it up to the school whether they should be switched to e-learning.

And this policy is similar to what other counties are doing.

In Citrus and Sarasota County schools, students will be reminded of the policy. If they refuse to comply, then they will be sent home and required to receive their education through a virtual option.

Some districts still are setting their policy.

In Pinellas County, the school board is going to vote on Tuesday on their emergency rule regarding face coverings. The rule they will vote on suggests three steps:

  • First, re-educate the student about the importance of wearing a mask.
  • Second, contact the student’s family.
  • And third, if repeated attempts do not work, reassign the student to e-learning or virtual school.

Pinellas says the change in placement is not a disciplinary action but a public health issue.

Others are hoping kids just follow the rules.

Manatee County said its plan is one of positive reinforcement, and they do not plan to issue harsh discipline for masks infractions. Polk County schools did not appear to have an enforcement plan on its website, and 10 Tampa Bay did not receive one after reaching out via email.

However, school officials said during a recent Facebook Live chat students could be disciplined if they do not wear a mask.

Hillsborough County is still figuring out whether all students will start with online learning for the first four weeks, or if brick and mortar will be offered as an option.


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