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Masks, Vaccines And Preparing For The Next School Year

Photo: WMFE
Photo: WMFE

As the CDC relaxes its mask guidelines for vaccinated people, the question for families becomes what do you do if you have children who are too young to get the vaccine. 

For now, Pfizer is the only COVID-19 vaccine with FDA emergency use authorization for children 12 to 15 years old, as long as they have parental or guardian consent. 

Catalina Elementary School Principal Seth Daub has navigated a full school year in the pandemic with less than 10 confirmed cases among the campus community, according to the OCPS COVID-19 dashboard. 

Daub says the safety guidelines outlined by the school system and the CDC was at the forefront of their plans in August 2020. Now that the school year has ended, he has found what has worked for Catalina Elementary, leading them to prioritize both the health and education of their students. 

“I was a little nervous at first, but let me tell you, our students and teachers, they did a great job,” Daub says. “I think we as a society were so worried about students and us being the mask police but we’re really not because the students are wearing masks, especially our kindergartners.”

He says the flexibility of communication among parents, teachers, and staff aided the transition back to face-to-face learning. 

“Our parent communication over this past year has been wonderful and it's really helped build relationships with our community and our teachers to do so with our families.”

Orlando area pediatrician Dr. Candice Jones says confusion over whether or not to mask up with vaccinations increasing and new guidance over mask wearing from the CDC is something that she has recently discussed with her patients. She says that in her family, her four-year-old daughter is still unvaccinated, and that guides her decisions about what safety measures she takes. 

“And so, for me, I've decided to continue to wear my mask, so that I can model those safety measures still for my four-year-old who still needs to be safe, still needs to wear a mask,” Jones says. “If I all of a sudden stop, she looks at mommy and follows everything I do, then she's gonna not see the seriousness of mask[s]. And so I do it for her, and we continue to wear them.”

OCPS has not yet determined how the new CDC mask guidance and vaccination efforts will affect the next school year but the board is scheduled to meet over the summer.