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Florida school district calls emergency meeting after 5,500+ students forced to quarantine over COVID-19 outbreak

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Hillsborough County Superintendent of Schools Addison Davis, right, speaks to Carletta Braden and her son James before the first day of school at Sessums Elementary School Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in Riverview, Fla.
Hillsborough County Superintendent of Schools Addison Davis, right, speaks to Carletta Braden and her son James before the first day of school at Sessums Elementary School Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in Riverview, Fla. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
  • Hillsborough County School District in Tampa, Florida, includes more than 300 schools and 233,000 students.

  • More than 5,500 students in the school district are being forced to quarantine due to COVID-19.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis has prohibited it and other districts from requiring masks.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

More than 5,500 students at a school district in Central Florida are being forced to quarantine due to an outbreak of COVID-19, prompting the school board to announce Monday that it is holding an emergency meeting to discuss "mandatory face coverings."

The outbreak at Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa comes less than a week after students returned to in-person learning there. As of Monday morning, 5,599 students and 316 employees are isolating after either testing positive or being in close contact with someone who has, the school board said.

Superintendent Addison Davis had issued a requirement that all students wear masks. But Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has prohibited such mandates, forcing the school district to allow any parent who wishes to "opt out" their child with a note.

"While the outcome may be the same whether we make face coverings optional or required with an opt-out, we believe this decision continues to illustrate that Hillsborough County Public Schools takes public safety seriously," Davis said earlier this month, Florida Politics reported.

At the emergency meeting on Wednesday, the school board said it will "discuss the best way to mitigate against the spread of the virus, up to and including mandatory face coverings for all students and staff."

DeSantis has threatened to pull funding from schools that proceed with mask requirements amid the surge in COVID-19 caused by lagging vaccination rates and the Delta variant. But last week the Biden administration pledged to step in with additional federal money should that happen.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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