HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Editor's note: The video above is from a previous story.
Hillsborough County Public Schools will "strongly recommend" and not mandate masks for in-person learners this school year.
“We know that, you know, this process has been extremely fluid, being able to make some of the hard and right decisions to help us further protect our students, further protect the working conditions of our adults," Superintendent Addison Davis said.
Davis held a press conference Friday after the Florida Department of Education adopted an emergency rule allowing parents to transfer their kids out of school if they face "COVID-19 harassment," such as being required to wear masks.
It's a decision he says the school district was patiently waiting on. It's also a decision that puts school districts like Hillsborough County in a hard place.
The DOE's decision falls in line with DeSantis' executive order ensuring parents can choose if their kids wear a mask or not. Part of that order includes the Florida Commissioner of Education being able to pursue all legal means to ensure compliance from school districts, including withholding state funds from non-compliant school boards.
“It really comes to a point where if school districts elect and select to mandate masks without having an opt-out opportunity the school districts will suffer financially," Davis said. "From our side of it, we don’t have the availability and we’re not in a financial footing to be able to give out any dollar and any cent away from our organization.”
To help ensure the safety of students and staff as the state continues to break COVID-19 cases and hospitalization records, Davis says protocols like positive hygiene, social distancing (where possible), deep cleaning, hand sanitizer stations and directional pathways will be in place.
He added that all classrooms will be stocked with masks, wipes, gloves and hand sanitizer for students' use.
“Know that this decision isn’t taken lightly, and this is another decision that, you know, it openly could be potentially split within our community. We just ask our community to trust in us and this process," Davis said.
You can learn more about the school district's approach in the video below: