Florida Schools Buck Governor’s Mask Rule, Risking Funds
(Bloomberg) -- Some school districts in Florida are pushing back against Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’s executive order that forbids them from mandating students to wear masks.
DeSantis signed the order on July 30 dictating that schools should leave masking decisions to parents. It also said that if the State Board of Education determines a district is unwilling or unable to comply with the order, the board can withhold the transfer of state funds until the district complies.
“The fairest thing to do is to let parents make the decision,” DeSantis said during a press conference on Thursday.
Broward County Public Schools, the second-largest in Florida, imposed a mask mandate last week, reversed it Monday, and then Wednesday reinstated it, according to a statement. “At this time, the District’s face covering policy, which requires the use of masks in District schools and facilities, remains in place,” the district said. Officials are still waiting on further guidance from the governor, and plan to discuss its next steps at a school board meeting Aug 10.
Smaller districts have also followed suit. Leon County Schools superintendent Rocky Hanna sent a letter to the governor asking for “the flexibility and the autonomy to make the decisions for our schools,” and said the district would like to implement a temporary requirement for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Alachua County Public Schools superintendent Carlee Simon told employees that masks will be required, regardless of vaccination status, and the policy will be in place until at least Sep. 17. The school board voted Aug. 3 to require masks for all students for the first two weeks of the school year. Two employees died of Covid-19 over the weekend and as of Wednesday, more than 80 were in quarantine.
Duval County Public Schools, which has more than 125,000 students in about 200 schools, has a policy that says face coverings are “strongly recommended” and if parents do not want their child to wear a covering, there will be an official opt-out process. All adults will be required to wear masks or facial coverings in schools through Sept. 3, according to the district’s website.
The coronavirus has been raging in Florida, with Covid-19 rates among the worst in the country, according to CDC data.
“We are finalizing health and education emergency rules this week that do not prohibit masks in schools but will require parents to have the right to opt their children out,” Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary, said in an emailed statement. “School districts will be expected to allow parents to make this choice.”
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