FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – With a recent surge in COVID-19 cases during the holidays driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, Broward’s School Board held an emergency meeting Friday to review and possibly revise their safety protocols.

They voted for masks to remain optional for students and staff, but make masks mandatory for visitors and vendors – the superintendent has authority to amend the policy.

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The new policy goes into effect on Monday, January 3rd. Masks for students remain optional but strongly encouraged.

The option is similar to what Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced on Thursday.

Beginning Monday, Jan. 6, all adults entering county schools, vendors, and visitors, along with bus drivers and bus attendants will have to wear masks. Masks will also be required for all spectators at school athletic events. Masks will not be required for students, but they are strongly urged to wear them.

Dr. Lisa Gwynn, Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami, says there’s a very real concern for kids when it comes to the Omicron variant.

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“If parents do not use send their kids to school with masks, the infection rates are just going to go higher and higher,” says Dr. Gwynn.

Due to a law that went into effect last November, neither school district cannot require students to wear masks. However, they can strongly encourage it to help control the spread of the virus.

The Broward school district has also asked parents and guardians to keep their children home if they are sick, exhibiting symptoms, or have been exposed to COVID-19.

This school year, school districts were not allowed to provide intermittent virtual school options to students due to the Florida Department of Education’s emergency orders expiring this past summer and the new law.

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The Broward school district said will continue to work with local health officials, and follow guidance from the CDC as it evaluates and adjusts COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

CBSMiami.com Team