RIVERVIEW, Fla. — Hillsborough County students went back to class on Tuesday morning to start the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. The majority of students and families are opting to follow the district’s mask mandate that is in place until Sept. 3.
According to district officials, 16,000 parents filled out the opt-out form that allows students to not follow the mask mandate, which amounts to about 7% of the total student population.
The opt-out form will be available on the district’s website for another month.
By allowing the option to opt kids out of the face-covering rule, the district is allowed to retain state funding per the Florida Department of Education.
In the meantime, Superintendent Addison Davis said he will continue to consult with local doctors and health leaders about whether the mask mandate needs to be extended beyond Sept. 3.
“What this does is allow us to continue to protect and appreciate the rights of our parents,” he said. “We want our parents to be able to make that right decision where they feel most comfortable every single day within our classrooms.”
Parents we spoke with at Sessums Elementary School in Riverview said they are putting their second-grader in a mask because it’s the right thing to do. However, they also said they saw a dramatic drop in other illnesses when she wore the mask in school last year.
“We had them in masks last year during school and they were less sick than any other time throughout any time period of school,” said Jordan Theuerkauf. “It does make a difference from regular colds.”
Hillsborough County Schools also opted to upgrade all of the schools’ air filters last year to collect bigger and thicker particles as an additional measure to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses.