Masks now optional at Miami-Dade high schools, middle schools

Miami-Dade County Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced Monday that masks are now optional at the county's high schools and middle schools.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Miami-Dade County Public Schools is loosening its COVID-19 policies, making masks now optional at high schools and middle schools.

The change, effective immediately, comes as the county sees a steady decline in infections. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced the new policy at a news conference before 2 p.m.

Parents will have to sign an opt-out form for their students to stop wearing masks. (You can see the form at the bottom of this page.)

Carvalho said the decision comes after “significant, extensive and frequent consultation” with medical experts who were unanimous in their recommendation.

Younger students, many of whom are not yet eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19, are still required to wear face coverings indoors at schools.

“I am very confident that within days we will be making an announcement regarding further relaxation of mask protocols at elementary and K-8 centers,” Carvalho said.

He added that high schoolers and middle schools can also stop wearing masks on school buses if they are officially opted out, however the district still recommends face coverings be worn in close indoor scenarios, such as on buses.

Employees at elementary and K-8 centers must continue to wear masks, while those at middle schools and high schools can remove theirs if they are vaccinated, Carvalho said. He noted that the district is legally forbidden from requiring proof of vaccination, so that would have to be done “on the honor system.”

These COVID-19 benchmarks led to Miami-Dade County's decision to change its mask policy in public schools. (WPLG)

Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade union, called the change of policy a “step in the right direction.”

“This afternoon Superintendent Carvalho announced that because positivity and hospitalization rates in our community continue to decrease and we are meeting established medical criteria, the loosening of COVID-19 protocols is now feasible,” Hernandez-Mats said in a statement. “We thank all the faculty, staff, and parents who have collectively helped us get to this point. This is a step in the right direction as we continue to utilize the various mitigation protocols in use. As more people and students become vaccinated and continue to prioritize safety, the more steps forward we will be able to make. We will continue to follow science and protect our communities.”

Broward County Public Schools decided last week to loosen its mask rules. Starting Monday morning, masks are now optional at high schools in Broward while remaining mandatory in elementary and middle schools.

Students remained split in Broward on Monday, with many still opting to wear masks as they walked into the classroom.

See the Miami-Dade mask opt-out form below:

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.