Face mask protocol to change due to decrease in COVID-19 transmission rates

Oct. 29, 2021 – Duval County Public Schools learned today that the community transmission rate for COVID-19 has declined from “high” on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) scale to “moderate.”  That improvement means the district’s face mask protocol will change effective next week.

Beginning next week, parents and guardians—at their sole discretion—can opt their children out of the face covering requirement without any documentation. They only need to complete the online opt-out form in FOCUS, the district’s online student information system.

Until this change, medical documentation has been required to opt out of wearing a face mask.

In a message to families, Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said, “I want to thank everyone for partnering with teachers and school leaders through this extraordinary challenge of education during a pandemic. There have clearly been no easy answers or universally accepted solutions. I am encouraged that our community transmission status continues to improve, and I am hopeful that we can all come together around the common goal of providing exceptional learning experiences and outstanding achievement for your children.”

Students who do not have a parent opt-out form on file but forget to bring a face mask will be given a disposable mask at school.

Under the district’s new communicable disease policy, Superintendent Greene will soon bring recommended procedures to the board for mitigation strategies to be deployed at varying levels of transmission for future outbreaks.

How to find and complete the opt-out form

Parents who would like to opt their child out of wearing a face covering can do so by completing the “Student Mask/Facial Covering Opt-Out Form” that is located online in the Parent FOCUS Account.

To find the online form, parents need to login to their Parent FOCUS Account, click on their child’s name, and then locate the form in the “Forms” folder.

To complete the form, parents will be required to select two options:

  • I elect to opt out my student from wearing a mask or facial covering as recommended by the CDC and the Student Code of Conduct.
  • By checking this box, I am completing this opt out of wearing a mask/facial covering form as the parent/guardian of (student’s name).

After selecting the two options, parents/guardians can then submit the online form.

Note: If completing the form for multiple children linked to the same Parent FOCUS Account, the parent/guardian will need to:

  1. Complete and submit the form for the first child
  2. Select the next child
  3. Select “child info”
  4. Re-open the form, complete and submit
  5. Repeat process for additional children

Focus Notes:

  1. The opt-out form will only populate with student information if the parent has linked their account to the student’s. For student safety, linking a parent account to a student account requires validation from the school. Contact your school if your account is not already linked to your child’s account.
  2. FOCUS users can change their language preferences.  Go to Preferences and then choose the preferred language.

Background:

  • The district opened schools for the 2021-22 school year with a mask protocol that enabled parents to opt out of the mask requirement. 
  • The School Board voted on Aug. 23 to require medical documentation to opt out of the face mask requirement. This requirement went into effect on Sept. 7.
  • The School Board approved COVID-19 community transmission factors as a target for suspending the mask requirement. Those factors were set at the “moderate” level, defined as new cases per 100,000 people of 49.99 or fewer and positivity rate of 7.99% or less, both over a seven-day period.
  • Prior to the medical opt-out requirement, parent opt-out forms had been completed for 10,033 students. 
  • After the medical documentation requirement went into effect on Sept. 7, opt-outs reduced to 606 students.
  • Wearing a face covering is also optional for employees. The practice is strongly encouraged for employees working indoors and unable to socially distance and when in common areas of the workplace.
  • The district will continue to implement other layered mitigation strategies such as:
    • Enhanced classroom, school, and district cleaning protocols
    • Promotion of social distancing where possible
    • Application of anti-microbial protectant spray in high touch areas
    • Ensuring availability of hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes
    • Increasing availability of nursing staff and school health aides
    • Posting COVID-19 cases on the district dashboard for transparency