School district approves ‘protective gear’ policy
After lengthy public comment during the Oct. 6 school board meeting, the Emergency Requirement for Protective Gear policy was approved and formally went into effect on Oct. 7.
The motion passed with Board Member Melisa Giovannelli opposing.
“I will not be supporting this mask mandate tonight for protective gear. I want to thank everyone that came to speak tonight. I respect everyone’s opinions and the right to have those beliefs,” she said. “My granddaughter has also had nose bleeds recently and it’s from wearing the masks. It is my fear that the damage from wearing the masks is doing more damage to the students. I don’t think the risk is worth it.”
Giovannelli said she is concerned about the policy because the district is picking certain things from the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines, but not all of them.
“To me it needs to be all or nothing. Why are we picking just one thing?” she asked. “We are not taking temperatures and that is still part of it. I go places where they take my temperature and I wear my mask. I am going to respect the rules of the places I want to go to. If I go shopping and have to wear a mask that is what I am going to do and I respect that. I don’t think we need a policy in place to mandate that and require that. The children are not the ones getting sick, it’s the adults and the adults need to be leading by example and wearing the masks. You have teachers that are not wearing the masks and students are. I think it’s really important to know that we have to respect everyone’s rights. I am going to respect the silent majority and I will be voting no.”
School Attorney Kathy Dupuy-Bruno reminded the board that the policy has an automatic expiration date as soon as the local health officials, the CDC or Florida Department of Health gives them the go ahead that protective gear no longer has to be worn.
“The procedures, or guidelines shall expire as soon as the Federal Centers for Disease Control, the State of Florida Department of Health, and/or other local health officials advise that the protective gear is no longer recommended and/or required,” the policy states.
Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins assured the public that there are constant conversations with the local Department of Health.
“At the end of the day it is local decisions,” he said. “I do not pretend to be a medical professional. (We) reach out to local health professionals with guidance in this area. The masks mandate, they provided that input to us. I don’t think anybody enjoys wearing this (mask). We are trying to keep our staff and students safe.”
Adkins said as soon as they receive word that they can relax that standard they will move in that direction expeditiously.
There are also ongoing conversations with district chiefs in regards to safe measures for such topics as children going to the playground and athletics.
“One of the things we are going to look at is the playground issue. It’s worth taking another look at. It’s a discussion being had today,” he said. “The athletic events we have moved in a more positive direction as we re-evaluate how this disease spreads and how well our protective measures are taken.”
Board Member Gwyn Gittens thanked those who spoke during public comment and voiced their opinions.
“This is my first opportunity as being a public figure. I have seen the good, bad and ugly of it at this point, but I guess that is what we have signed up for,” she said.“We have to have guidelines to do what we do and we cannot make them up while we go. We are never going to please all the people all of the time.”
Gittens said she does not believe anyone wants to wear masks because they are uncomfortable and hot.
“I personally have looked at the list of schools where we have had positive cases and think if we had not had some kind of mask mandate it could have been worse. That’s my opinion. I’m not trying to overstep anyone’s bounds as to what you need to or want to do with your child. As an organization and governance team we have to follow some rules,” she said.
Board Member Debbie Jordan also supported the policy because she has 95,000 students and their families to worry about and keep protected.
Board Chair Mary Fischer supported the policy because there are no words stating it is permanent. She said she would like to see Lee Home Connect kids have a period of time where they can go outside of their homes during their school day, as there is a belief they cannot. Time outside in the sunshine, would be very beneficial for a number of reasons, including the social and emotional peace, she added.