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Hillsborough Schools: Face coverings are still mandatory

Confusion arose over an email on social media that said waivers did not require medical documentation.
Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis at Witter Elementary School.
Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis at Witter Elementary School. [ HCPS | Twitter ]
Published Aug. 18, 2020

TAMPA — Clarifying an issue that had parents and teachers confused this week, the Hillsborough County School District just issued this statement; Face coverings remain mandatory, for students and staff, to protect against the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, with a few very specific exceptions.

This email went out late Tuesday (boldfaced type added for emphasis):

Dear Hillsborough Schools Families,

We are excited to finally get this new school year underway and look forward to welcoming back your children, whether in a brick and mortar setting, through eLearning, or as a student in our exciting and newly reimagined Hillsborough Virtual K-12 school.

The School Board approved the Superintendent’s Innovative Reopening Plan on July 23, which offered three options for parents. Part of the reopening plan includes a requirement that all persons on school campuses – including students, staff and visitors – must wear a face covering. The school district’s mandate to require face coverings is based on guidance from the CDC and the Florida Department of Health. Authorities agree that face coverings are one of the most effective means for preventing the spread of COVID-19. We are sensitive to the unique challenges that this requirement may have for the school setting; however, we believe it is an important strategy that can be implemented as an additional layer of protection for everyone on our campuses. There are approved exemptions to the face covering mandate, including:

  • when eating or drinking;
  • when a face covering would cause an impairment due to an existing health condition (medical certification required);
  • during observance of social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines;
  • during communication with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and when that person needs to see the mouth to better understand;
  • during limited class periods when a face covering would be an impediment to targeted learning (e.g., phonics instruction, sound-symbol relationships) and;
  • when outdoors with social distancing.

In order for a student to claim an exemption due to an existing health condition, the district will require medical certification from a licensed health care provider that the student has a medical, physical or psychological condition that prevents the student from being able to safely wear a face covering, and description of the medical reason.

All students are expected to follow face covering requirements while in school or school sponsored activities/events for the health and safety of themselves, school staff, and others. In instances where reusable masks are left at home, a disposable mask will be provided for the day.

Absent an approved medical exemption, students who do not comply will be reminded of the requirement. If a student refuses to comply, they will be sent home and will be required to receive their educational instruction via remote learning.

Please see the link below for a copy of the Medical Exemption Form.

Face Covering Medical Exemption Form

Please see the link below to access the FAQs on the use of face coverings on campus.

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HCPS Face Covering FAQ

An attorney, representing several families with children in the schools, sued the district on Friday, saying the masking requirement will compel students to wear a medical device without medical supervision; and that students who do not comply will be consigned to distance learning, which he considers inferior to in-person school.