BROOKSVILLE — With COVID numbers going down, the Hernando County School Board decided Oct. 12 to keep the current mask rules with a parental opt-out for another two weeks, and make a decision then if the mandate needs to continue.

Superintendent John Stratton said he had good news: On Oct. 4, there were only 31 students who tested positive for the coronavirus, and seven staffers.

“We’re seeing that downward trend. That’s good news and hopefully we’ll continue on this downward trend,” Stratton said.

About 30% of students have gotten a parental opt-out — a total of 6,916, he said, up from 6,800 several weeks ago.

While staff quarantines and absences are down, Stratton said the district needs substitute teachers, full-time teachers, bus personnel and cafeteria personnel.

Board members said they were encouraged by the numbers but that they should wait two more weeks and then decide at the Oct. 26 meeting.

“I’m encouraged by the amounts going down,” said board member Jimmy Lodato. “I’d like to see if they keep going down, and if they do in two weeks, let’s remove the masks.”

Board member Gus Guadagnino agreed, as did board members Susan Duval and Kay Hatch.

“I follow what others are doing, and most are keeping mask mandates,” said board chairwoman Linda Prescott. “I have seen where they have shown COVID cases lower in mask mandates with opt-out.

“I would like to continue having our cases go down and protecting our students, staff and parents.”

School board attorney Dennis Alfonso said that the district is not breaking the law with its mask mandate.

Members voted 5-0 to continue the mask mandate and consider the numbers again at the next meeting.

In other action

• The board approved 5-0 in the consent agenda measures to buy instructional materials from Achieve3000 for $89,727.75.

• The board approved a contract with a law firm for a lawsuit against e-cigarette maker Juul. Prescott said it won’t cost the district anything unless the district wins the lawsuit.

• The board approved a $180,000 purchase of AICE Cambridge International exams, trainings and

textbooks for 2021-2022 school year.

• The board approved the purchase of janitorial products and supplies for $1,250; an Applicant Tracking System and TalentEd software for $11,460.75; purchase of pre-construction services for the Winding Waters K8 Capacity Project from T&G Constructors for an estimated budget of $2.6 million, which includes the purchase of $26,000 in pre-construction services; approved the purchase of extended SMS messaging from Blackboard for $8,319.45; and renewed a deal with Aaro Fences Inc. for fencing materials, parts, supplies, installation and repair service and authorize the purchase for an estimated annual amount of $50,000.