MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade public schools’ new relaxed mask rules are now in effect.
“Today wearing my mask is optional,” says iPrep Academy fourth-grader, Alexander Gherman.READ MORE: North Miami Beach PD Needs Help Locating 15-Year-old Jeimy Henrriquez
But kids can’t simply show up at their school not wearing them. Parents of students in all schools, including K-8 centers and elementary schools, must complete an opt-out form and return it to their child’s school. Forms can be downloaded at backtoschool.dadeschools.net or obtained at their child’s school.
Additionally, fully vaccinated employees at all schools may choose not to wear facial coverings.
Alexander Gherman and his younger sister Katherine were given permission from their parents to stop wearing their masks in schools. Alexander wore his mask in school but took it off outside during gym class.
“It was a great feeling since I haven’t really done that in a while,” he says.
There are more than 320,000 students in the Miami-Dade County School District yet just 9,000 parents have decided to sign the waiver allowing their kids to stop wearing masks in schools. That breaks down to less than 3% of children who have stopped wearing masks.
“I believe it’s a personal choice. Every parent, kid and staff member are free to choose what they feel safe with,” says Veronica Gherman, a Miami-Dade County resident and mom.
The school district said their decision to make masks optional relied on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), in addition to guidance from the public health and medical experts task force.READ MORE: Former US Rep. Carrie Meek Passes Away At 95
After more than a year wearing masks, ditching them may be harder than initially expected.
“I don’t think I saw a single student today not wearing their mask,” says Steven Maradiaga, a senior at iPrep Academy. “I believe in still wearing masks despite any mandates or any optional choice I have to take it off,” he says.
Masks have become a buffer zone; a layer of protection kids we talked to aren’t ready to part with.
“If the situation clearly and definitively starts heading in a better direction then yeah I’d be confident taking it off again,” says Amari Griffin a senior at iPrep Academy.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said they made the decision with their task force after seeing consistently lower case numbers and higher vaccination rates.
“With three weeks under our belt, and well into the fourth week, we have maintained, as a community, less than 100 cases per 100,000 residents. Sixty-three percent of our children have been fully vaccinated, and 83 percent having been administered at least one dose,” he said.
The district will have 12 on-site school locations set up to vaccinate children ages five and older. By next week, the number of sites will expand to 70.
Select Publix, CVS, and Walmart pharmacies are now administering the pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses to children. Find pharmacy locations here.MORE NEWS: Officer Injured, Suspect Dead Following Coral Gables Police-Involved Shooting
Select Winn-Dixie pharmacies are also offering the Pfizer vaccine doses to the 5-11 set. Click Here for availability.