BRADENTON, Fla. — Masks remain optional for students and staff at Manatee County Schools.
But some parents are concerned about sending their kids back to school with COVID-19 cases rising due to the surging Delta variant.
"I feel like we are watching Florida burn down while holding a hose that is turned off," said Jessica Patterson, a Manatee County parent.
Patterson has a daughter who is too young for the vaccine. She said her children will be wearing masks to school even though it's optional.
Last week the district reported more than 30 COVID cases among students and staff at 20 different schools, this before school has even started.
"So I’m really concerned about not only our children, our teachers, but our community as a whole," said Patterson.
On Monday, during a Manatee County School Board emergency meeting to discuss COVID policies, the board heard from many people with mixed emotions regarding masks in schools.
"I just want people’s right to choose. We were persecuted for months for not wearing masks and yet the majority of the people that I know that haven’t worn masks, haven’t been sick," said Andra Griffin, a Manatee County resident.
The board said masks are optional in schools and on buses because of Governor DeSantis' order.
Superintendent Cynthia Saunders said other safety measures, aside from the masks, are the same as last year.
Right now, the board is discussing sending a survey to parents of elementary students to ask if they want their child in a classroom with masks, a classroom without masks, or if they are impartial. They hope this will help them better understand where all parents stand on the issue.
"It gives us data and facts on which the superintendent can decide at each school, how to shape those classes that we need to," said Rev. James Golden, manatee county school board district 5.