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Duval students return to school with new COVID-19 safety measures in place

Back from winter break, students are entering the classroom where teachers will be wearing masks once again.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — It's a familiar feeling. Kids are returning to the classroom while COVID-19 cases rise. 

Duval County Public Schools is responding by increasing COVID protocols. No mask mandate for kids, but teachers and staff will be required to wear one at times. 

For Tracy Synan, her teenage daughters have antibodies – one from the vaccine, the other from COVID itself -- and she doesn't feel like the district needs to force the protocols on them. 

"You are able to protect yourself. You can get the vaccine," she said. "You can wear the N-95. We don’t need a bunch of protocols of other people telling us what to do."

The protocols for the month of January in Duval County Public Schools include requiring face masks for employees when working with students and when unable to social distance. DCPS says masks will also be required for visitors to schools. Field trips have been suspended for the month of January and events will be limited to 75% capacity.

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Parents posting in the Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Facebook group are concerned. One parent asks, “My kids are fully vaccinated but I still have serious concerns. Am I overreacting?” 

Other parents chiming in say they are “worried about what they will bring home” and suggesting to reinstate temperature checks.

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“I think the protocols are unnecessary," Synan said. "But if other people feel comfortable instituting them, as long as they don’t interfere too much with what I have to do or what my kids have to do, if it makes them feel better about it, that’s fine.”

Kids as young as 5 are eligible for vaccinations. Kids as young as 12 are eligible for a booster. 

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Dr. Mohammed Reza, Infectious Disease Specialist, says DCPS's new COVID mitigation measures are good news to him, not just as an infectious disease specialist, but as a father of four with kids in the district. 

"It really is something reassuring that DCPS is taking an active role in trying to decrease the rate of transmission in close quarters settings," Reza says.

He says with how contagious the omicron variant is, it is best to wear a mask and get vaccinated. 

DCPS says they will be reviewing their protocols in February. 

RELATED: Diocese of Saint Augustine announces students will return to school wearing masks

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