ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County Public Schools officials said only around 8,200 kids — or 4% of the district's students — were sent to school with a note to opt out of the mask mandate on the first day of school on Tuesday.

What You Need To Know

  •  Orange and Seminole counties instituted a 30-day mask mandate for schools for the start of the school year

  •  Parents can opt out of the mandate in both counties, if they choose

  • Orange County Public Schools reported that only 4% of its students were sent to school with a note to opt out of the mask mandate

Tuesday marked the first day of school in several Central Florida school districts including Orange and Seminole counties. Both instituted a mask mandate for 30 days, with the option for parents to opt out with a note.

Orange County school district Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins said parents can still opt out their children in the coming days if they choose.

All they have to do is bring in a signed note to school, saying so.

Everyone else has to mask up for another month while the school district consults with health experts and the school board to decide what is next.

The opt-out option is to keep in line with the governor's recent executive order, which leaves masking decisions up to parents.

But medical experts said mask mandates are necessary to keep those too young to get vaccinated safe, as more and more children are hospitalized with COVID.

"When you're talking about local mandates, mandates for schools, for teachers, for universities, for colleges, I'm sorry, I mean I know people must like to have their individual freedom and not be told to do something. But, I think we're in such a serious situation now that under certain circumstances mandates should be done," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Late last month, the CDC recommended even fully-vaccinated people wear masks indoors.. in parts of the country where there’s high transmission, which includes all of Florida.

As for other pandemic precautions, at Orange Couny Public Schools, Jenkins said there will still be frequent cleaning and disinfecting and social distancing where it's feasible.

Mask policies on parent's mind as students head to school

New fifth grader Scarlette Devine has a spring in her step, not just because she had a great first day of school, but also because it just so happens to be her 10th birthday.

You could say she was more than prepared to start things off with a smile.

“She has three pencil cases, and she complained about her backpack being heavy," her mom, Jenn Devine, said with a laugh.

“They do those boohoo breakfasts for kindergarten parents, but they really need to do them for the fifth grade ones because it’s the last year of elementary, and your babies are growing up," she said.

Devine spent years of her career as a teacher, so this first day is a first for her, also.

“Really bizarre," she said. "It’s the first time I’ve ever been able to walk her to school. So that was really exciting, so I got to do that before I went to work today.”

What she noticed when she dropped Scarlette off, though, was not unexpected: She said she saw a little more than half the students not wearing masks.

“I was wearing a mask, but some people didn’t wanna wear a mask," said Scarlette.

Devine decided to only opt her daughter out of wearing a mask when she is outside.

“We’ve tried to teach her it’s about kindness and thinking of others and protecting others," Devine said. "And so we elected to wear our mask (inside)."

Scarlette said she does not mind, so long as she gets to keep doing what she loves and making new friends.

“Some kids in our class were really nice," she said. "It was a really great first day."