Parent of 12-year-old in ICU urges Polk County to take up mask mandates

The debate over masks mandates in schools was reignited Tuesday night at the Polk County school board meeting. The issue wasn't on the agenda, but parents on both sides of the issue still had a lot to say.

Some said it should be up to the parents to choose, not the school district, but others argue if classes are in-person masks should be required.

"I believe it's in the best interest of our children to mandate masks," one parent said.

"When we mandate masks it's not oppressive. It's abusive," another parent said. 

Currently, Polk County Public Schools does not have a mask mandate. Instead, masks are strongly recommended.

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"I get a call every day from the school saying that somebody else has contracted coronavirus at the school and it’s like, when is our number coming up? And it obviously has," Polk County Public Schools parent John said.

His 12-year-old son – who wasn’t vaccinated – has been in the ICU at Lakeland Regional Hospital with COVID-19 since Monday. John feels if classes are in-person masks should be required, otherwise, e-learning should be an option.

polk county student in icu

A Polk County 12-year-old is in the ICU after contracting COVID-19

"Wearing a mask, my sneeze isn’t going to go very far. It may limit it. It’s something. It’s an added layer," John said.

According to the latest data on the district’s website, 138 students have tested positive for COVID-19 along with 66 staff members, but the district says those numbers are "preliminary and subject to change as additional cases are reported and processed."

"It should be a mandate in instances when the numbers are showing really high," John said.

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Masks were not on the agenda Tuesday night so nothing official was decided. Masks remain a strong recommendation in Polk County schools. That could change at any time if the board calls for an emergency meeting, but that has yet to happen as of Tuesday night.