Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued a letter Wednesday telling school districts to amend their mask policies for the 2021-2022 school year to make masks optional.

The Department of Education reviewed data from across the state and did not find a correlation between sweeping mask mandates and the presence of COVID-19 in schools, Corcoran said. 

“The data shows us that districts’ face covering policies do not impact the spread of the virus,” Corcoran wrote, calling for more “surgical — not sweeping” policies. 

Families should have the option of determining whether their child wears a face covering, Corcoran said. He added students with disabilities and those learning English are particularly impeded by the “one size fits all” mask policies and some families may have opted to pull their child out of school due to the mandate.

His letter closes with the request for “districts which currently are implementing a mandated face covering policy (to) revise their policy to be voluntary for the 2021-22 school year.”

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Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran has directed local school boards to drop mandatory mask policies for next school year.  [Herald-Tribune archive photo / 2017]

Sarasota County School Board Chairwoman Shirley Brown said the commissioner’s directive didn’t change much. 

“We were considering the same thing. It may not be necessary next year, but we would make it optional. It’s on the agenda to discuss, even without his mandate,” Brown said.  “We have seen it isn’t spreading as much inside the school as it is outside.”

Fact check:New COVID-19 orders retain mask mandate in Ohio

Manatee County School Board Chairman Charlie Kennedy didn’t appreciate the state dictating to local boards what they could and could not do, especially given Republicans’ stated preference local control. 

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