Monday evening’s emergency meeting of the School District of Osceola County was another heated discussion about whether masks mandates should be put in place after Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled on Friday that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ mask mandate ban in Florida schools was unconstitutional.

On their August 17 meeting, the Osceola school district voted in favor of imposing a 60-day mask policy that included a parental opt-out, similar to what Orange County had in place at the time. Orange County has since instituted a mask mandate.

Monday’s meeting opened with Nemours Childrens’ Hospital Physicians Adriana Cadilla and Kenneth Alexander sharing via phone that masks have a positive effect in preventing COVID-19 in schools and in the community.

School board member Jon Arguello expressed his disagreement with the physicians asking, “Dr, Alexander, can you tell the parents that are in this room that if we mask every student we will no longer have COVID? Or, in the inverse, if we do nothing, that we will not continue to see a decrease – as you mentioned, from 26(%) to 18(%) already?

Dr. Alexander responded, “The number of cases we have will be lower if people are masking. This will decrease the number of people in the hospital, the number of people missing work, the number of people dying, and I think that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Arguello later called mask mandates a “waste of time.” The audience was heard throughout the majority of the meeting with opinions from both sides of the issue being shared “robustly.”

School District Attorney Frank Krruppenbacher shared about Friday’s ruling against DeSantis’ mask mandate ban being found unconstitutional, “The order, as of 5 pm today has not been signed and entered by the judge. There were things being filed today. Here’s what will happen. When the judge files that order, if the state decides rot appeal, the minute they file an appeal there will be an automatic stay of the order. The plaintiff can go to the circuit court judge and ask to lift that stay, that’s a heavy burden to get a judge to lift the stay of their own order.”

“Essentially this is a political dance here, right? There’s no purpose for us to be meeting on this day. There’s no valid reason for an emergency meeting to be called to pre-empt even the case in which we’re using to make any new policy, said board member Jon Arguello.

The meeting once again showed the level of discontent in the community regarding school masking policy. Numerous times during the meeting the audience was addressed by Chairman Clarence Thacker who attempted to quiet those in the board room, “We’re here to listen tonight. We are not here to be yelled at. We’re not here to be belittled. We’re going to listen to every different viewpoint of the people who have signed in to speak tonight.”

School Superintendent shared this year’s COVID-10 statistics in the district saying there have been 919 who have tested positive this year, with 173 staff testing positive, There have been 5.195 students quarantined with 282 staff being quarantined as of Monday’s meeting.

For two days last week, the school district shut down Celebration K-8 School because of the number of cases among students and staff.

“I know it’s unpopular, and I’m OK with that,” board member Terry Castillo said. We had people in this very community pass away very recently. I cannot in good conscience ignore that because it happens to be unpopular today.”

Castillo went on to make a motion for a mask mandate to be put in place, but there was no second to the motion, and the motion died without a vote.

The district will continue with its current 60-day mask mandate which includes a parental opt-out.