The Volusia County School Board, after hours of discussion spanning at least three meetings, has finally voted to move forward on making masks optional starting this summer.
The board voted May 11 to advertise amendments to the “mask mandate policy” that would encourage but not require masks for students, school employees, and vendors who visit schools.
Despite reaching a consensus on making masks optional last month — and agreement on a timeline that would see the policy take effect in June, ahead of summer school — the School Board spent hours May 11 going back and forth about the best way to do so.
Amending the current policy to explicitly make masks voluntary seemed like a simple solution. Because policy changes must be advertised in advance of being voted on, the vote at the regular meeting May 11 was to move forward on “advertising the proposed amendments to policy.” The amendments will be formally voted on at a special meeting of the School Board on Monday, June 14.
But before voting on the advertisement, School Board Member Jamie Haynes moved to repeal the mask mandate altogether. Her motion was seconded by Board Member Carl Persis.
That set off another circular discussion, mostly about the minutiae of the process of changing School Board policy.
Because the school system’s dress code explicitly prohibits facial coverings, repealing the mask mandate would not immediately make masks voluntary. Either a new policy on masks would have to be adopted, or the dress code would have to be amended. Both options would require different timelines for advertising the changes, and advertising the meetings that would be required ahead of the changes.
Ultimately, Persis withdrew his second, and made a new motion to go forward with amending the existing policy, instead.
That motion appeared to pass 5-0, but Haynes revealed at the end of the meeting that she had not actually voted.
“Yes, I want it to be optional, but I am still struggling with the fact we’re putting in a policy, so I am voting no against it,” Haynes said. “I still feel it should have been repealed, and it should be parental choice, so that is where I stand.”
“I’m confused, because I thought that is what we just did,” Board Member Anita Burnette said.
The School Board’s attorney said it really isn’t possible for a board member to not vote.
“I’ve never had this happen, but it is what it is,” attorney Ted Doran said. “She didn’t vote, and by law she is required to vote … she voted no.”
With that, the matter was settled — for now.