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Pasco schools keep mask mandate in place

District officials will reconsider the rules for the summer and fall.
A student arrives by bus on the first day of school at the entrance of Gulf High School in Pasco County. The district's mask policy, in place since that return to campus, will remain in effect through the end of the school year.
A student arrives by bus on the first day of school at the entrance of Gulf High School in Pasco County. The district's mask policy, in place since that return to campus, will remain in effect through the end of the school year. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Apr. 26
Updated Apr. 27

Pasco County public school students and staff will have to keep wearing masks on campus a while longer.

Citing the continuance of Florida’s coronavirus pandemic, the school district’s communication office on Monday sent a message to all employees alerting them that the administration will continue to require facial coverings on all campuses and in all buildings.

“As a school district, we have worked together to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, and masks have played a large role in that effort,” the memo stated. “We remain optimistic that masks will no longer be necessary in the fall, and are making plans for a much more normal 2021-22 school year.”

The decision comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ March 2020 executive order proclaiming a state health emergency is set to expire after its sixth extension. Superintendent Kurt Browning had suggested he might end the district’s mask mandate if DeSantis does not renew his order, extended by 60 days on Feb. 26.

At the time the memo went out, the governor’s office had not signaled which way it might act.

Related: Pasco schools might make masks voluntary in late April

But that did not deter the district.

Spokesman Steve Hegarty noted that the School Board’s face covering policy, adopted in November, made clear it shall expire no later than the end of the 2020-21 school year. Students’ last day is May 26, with teachers working through May 28.

As a separate governmental entity, Hegarty noted, the district has the authority to continue its requirement and decided it would be least disruptive to do so. He said officials plan to review the face mask rules for summer and fall courses at a later time.

The Pasco County Commission ended its mandatory mask ordinance in early April.