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Pasco schools plan to require masks

The proposal still needs final School Board approval.

Inundated by calls and emails demanding a mask mandate, the Pasco County school district announced Tuesday evening that it intends to impose one on anyone inside its buildings or participating in its activities.

COVID-19 infection are on the rise, superintendent Kurt Browning explained in a YouTube video, and research indicates that such a move is in the best interest of students, staff and parents.

School Board members asked the administration to look into the idea at the end of June, calling for a detailed explanation of how to implement the rule. Since then, staff have drafted the proposal and had it reviewed by lawyers.

Related: Pasco schools inch closer to mandatory masks

The recommended rule would apply to students, staff and visitors to any school district property or school activity. Athletes will be encouraged but not required to wear masks during practice and competition.

Staff and students with medical conditions could gain exemptions with proper medical documentation.

People would be permitted to remove their masks when outdoors and able to maintain social distance, when eating and when alone in a room with the door closed.

“Please remember that even with use of face coverings, proper social distancing should always be observed to the maximum extent possible,” the document reads. “Students, staff, and visitors must remain six (6) feet away from non-household members whenever possible.”

The district will attempt to provide “mask breaks” as feasible.

What would qualify as a mask? The recommended rule defines the facial coverings to include surgical masks, face shields, scarfs, bandannas, and fishing buffs, but not mesh apparel or items that cover one’s entire face, such as a costume mask or a ski mask.

The rule still requires School Board approval. Browning intends to review it with the board at its July 21 meeting, and ask for a vote on July 28. Board members have indicated they will support the idea.