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No change expected to Pinellas County Schools optional mask policy

Discussion about face coverings on campus is not on the agenda for Tuesday's school board meeting.

LARGO, Fla. — Two days before the first day of school, the Pinellas County School Board opted to keep face masks optional for students and staff.

Two weeks later, School Board Chairperson Carol Cook doesn't expect anything to change.

Cook said Tuesday's meeting is a regular board meeting and the topic of masks on campus is not on the agenda.

If a board member decides to bring up the topic, the entire board will vote on whether to schedule a special meeting to further discuss the current face mask policy.

A Pinellas County Schools spokesperson sent the following statement:

Although there are currently no items regarding COVID-19 or mask policies on tomorrow’s School Board meeting agenda, we do anticipate public comment on the topic.  Board discussion is possible.

At a special meeting on August 9th, Pinellas Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego recommended the district keep the wording in their policy as is-  "Pinellas County Schools strongly recommends the use of face coverings" rather than requiring masks with an opt-out, which could violate the governor's emergency order banning mask mandates in Florida schools.

RELATED: Here's how to track reported COVID-19 cases at Tampa Bay area school districts

While Cook believes decisions like this should be left up to local school boards, she's not in favor of defying the governor's current order and said, "We don't pick and choose when we follow the law."

On Friday, the Sarasota County School Board voted 3-2 to temporarily enforce a mask mandate across the district, and on Wednesday, Hillsborough County Public Schools, the seventh-largest school district in the country, passed a mask mandate with medical exemption.

It's unclear if districts defying the emergency order will see financial penalties. Governor DeSantis previously said school districts that violate the ban could lose school funding, his office later clarifying it would be the equivalent of the superintendent's salary.

The Biden Administration responded to the governor's decision with a letter stating it would support school boards in Florida that are defying his order to prohibit mask-wearing mandates.

RELATED: Your guide to Tampa Bay-area school mask mandates

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