Mask-Optional Policy at Somerset Academy Riverside Sparks Worry

Somerset Academy Riverside Mask-Optional Policy Sparks Worry

Somerset Academy Riverside in Coral Springs.

By Bryan Boggiano

After a concerned parent spoke to Parkland Talk about Somerset Parkland Academy’s mask-optional policy, another Somerset charter school has entered the spotlight.

A mother whose children attend Somerset Academy Riverside reached out to Coral Springs Talk, worried about how the policy could endanger children’s health. The school, located at 2251 Riverside Drive, serves students from prekindergarten through eighth grade. 

A mother of two at the school, who wishes to be anonymous, kept her children home the first day and tried to withdraw them from the charter school. After attending a meet-and-greet before school began, she said she did not believe her children would be safe.

“I already knew in my mind that I wasn’t going to send my kids,” she said, “and I went either wanting to hear something that would change my mind or hear something that confirmed my feelings to keep them home were correct.”

The mother spoke about the letter from Principal Geyler Castro addressing the mask-optional policy on Tuesday. This was the same letter addressed to Somerset Parkland Academy, which states that the policy can still change. 

While she said Principal Castro and the staff truly care about the safety and well-being of the children; she believes that there is a disconnect between the school’s governing board and the State Board of Education.

Another concern is that social distancing is not always possible. In pictures she sent to Coral Springs Talk, most people are wearing masks, not all. If the decision were up to the principal and the school, she believes masks would be mandatory due to their deep connections to the children and families.

“It’s easy to make the rules when you’re not there and not the one who will have to experience the fallout,” she said.

Somerset is part of Academica and has over 200 charters schools. In 2011 it reported $158 million in revenue.

Although she has the option to remove her children from the school, others are not as lucky. “I’ve gotten to know these kids, kids you spend birthdays with, school plays with, and they’re all still there. I just worry about them. My heart goes out to all these little kids that I’ve known over the years.” 

The debate over masks comes as school districts such as Palm Beach County saw rapid COVID spikes. Less than two weeks into the school year, there were more than 1,300 confirmed COVID cases. About 1,200 of those cases are among students, according to reports. The first day of school was Aug. 10, but the district did not mandate masks until Aug. 18.

The mother believes that masks will keep children, families, and the community safe. For her, wanting a safe, healthy environment for children to learn and grow should not be political. 

“It’s not about taking away your rights and liberties,” she said, “it’s about protecting your kids.”

Somerset Charter School Adherence to Emergency Order- Parent Letter

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