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Manatee County School Board Extends Mask Policy For 90 Days

Scott Hopes is a doctor who serves on the Manatee County School Board.
Scott Hopes is a doctor who serves on the Manatee County School Board.

Parents against masks have been vocal at school board meetings, but county officials have opted for the advice of medical experts in crafting their policies.

The Manatee County School Board on Tuesday unanimously voted to extend its mask policy, becoming the latest school district in the greater Tampa Bay region to keep requiring students and staff to wear face coverings at school as a way to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Pinellas County and Sarasota County schools have also voted to continue their mask policies.

Scott Hopes, an epidemiologist who serves on the school board, said the scientific consensus supports the decision.

“The issue of masks is something that has been known, at least since I’ve been involved with the SARS virus going back to 2002. Masks make a difference. And it has been proven,” Hopes said.

Parents who are opposed to their children wearing masks have spoken out at recent board meetings, and several spoke again at Tuesday night's meeting.

But board chair Gina Messenger said those parents are in the minority.

“I can honestly say I have had far, far more emails in favor of keeping the current policy than I have had otherwise,” Messenger said.

“Every principal I spoke to said the policy is working well in their school,” she added.

The board agreed to revisit the matter every 90 days going forward.

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Kerry Sheridan is a reporter and co-host of All Things Considered at WUSF Public Media.