SWFL’s private Catholic schools to require masks

An executive order from the governor says public schools can’t mandate masks, but what about private schools?

They aren’t part of that order, so they make their own rules, and Thursday, the Diocese of Venice did just that. It mandated masks indoors temporarily in all Catholic schools in counties with a high positivity rate, which includes Southwest Florida.

When it comes to parenting, Rochelle Joslin, a parent at Bishop Verot High School, said she knows how to choose what’s best for her child.

“I used the right to choose to come to your school. Give me the right to choose what is best for my child regarding a mask versus no mask,” she said.

But the Diocese of Venice isn’t leaving that choice up to parents. Leaders issued a letter Thursday night saying masks are required indoors temporarily in all Catholic schools with 10% positivity rates or higher. That includes Lee County, home to Bishop Verot.

“I am the parent, I can make the health choices for my child. They don’t need to implement that for us,” Joslin said.

“Now I don’t have a choice but to send my son to school where you made a last-minute decision that doesn’t make any sense.”

James Didio’s kids go to Saint Francis Xavier in Fort Myers. He said his family was excited masks were optional at school before the Diocese issued their mandate.

“The masks I think are a little bit of a distraction so that’s why we were excited to have them optional at this point. Our option is no mask.”

Dr. Bernard Ashby, the Florida state lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care, said masks are critical right now with the variant surging. He praised the Diocese for their decision.

“In the hospital, patients are younger and they are really, really sick coming in the door due to the fact that the delta variant is much more transmissible,” he said.

Didio said he hopes the numbers go down so the masks can be put away.

“We need these numbers to go down, so let’s hope and pray that they do so that gives us a glimmer of hope that we will not be mandated all year.”

Going by the letter from the bishop, that’s up to the community. Get the case numbers down, the masks can go away.

Didio and other parents said they may consider transferring their kids to a private school where masks remain optional, such as Canterbury, Southwest Florida Christian Academy and Classical Christian Academy, to name a few.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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