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Pinellas County Schools to lift face mask requirement for fall 2021

The face covering policy will end on the last day of the current spring semester.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Students won't be required to wear face masks when they return to class this fall in Pinellas County.

On Tuesday, Pinellas County Schools announced its intention to rescind the school board policy mandating face coverings on campus. The plan is to remove that requirement at 5 p.m. on June 9, after students leave on the last day of class in the 2020-2021 school year.

The timing is based on the district's effort to make sure any staff members who wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19 have the chance to do so before the rules change. The district also took into consideration the fact that parents knew there was a face mask rule at the time they made decisions about whether to have their children do in-person learning for the spring 2021 semester. So, district leaders didn't want to change the policy until the semester concluded.

As of now, about 80 percent of the county's students attend school in-person.

“I am incredibly proud of the work our staff, students, families and School Board have done during this global pandemic,” Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego wrote in a statement. “The school district has worked closely with its medical advisory group throughout the last 14 months to create, review and update health and safety protocols based on the latest scientific data. Due to the commitment and cooperation of all involved, we have been able to successfully have a healthy, productive and meaningful school year.”

The district says all of its current health and safety protocols will stay in effect through the end of this semester. Gov. Ron DeSantis' recent suspension of local pandemic-related emergency orders does not affect classrooms for the remainder of the school year.

Pinellas County government leaders on Tuesday announced they were rescinding face covering requirements for local businesses and ending the mandate that large events have COVID-19 safety plans. But again, that did not apply to schools.

School leaders in Pinellas County say they will continue working with infectious disease experts and pediatric specialists from local health care systems as they plan for the future.

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