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The fight over mask mandates stays hot in Florida schools

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
A student holds a mask on the first day of school for Hillsborough County students, at Hillsborough High School on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020 in Tampa.
A student holds a mask on the first day of school for Hillsborough County students, at Hillsborough High School on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020 in Tampa. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Oct. 7, 2020

Okay, we get it. Masks are uncomfortable and many people would rather not wear them. That doesn’t mean schools are going to abandon their use as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus, though they’re trying to be accommodating within the rules. It’s an issue that just won’t fade away. Read on for the latest on masks and other Florida education news.

The mask mandate stands. But football fans will get a little leeway at Pasco County high school games. • The Sarasota County School Board stuck to its mask policy in the face of protesters demanding it lift the rule. Some residents argued the district’s stance on masks and Black Lives Matter were evidence of its left-wing agenda, the Herald-Tribune reports. • The story of a central Florida teen arrested for refusing to wear a mask in school went viral. Here’s the Associated Press version.

Schools have responded to coronavirus with more than masks. In Florida and around the nation, they’ve blocked access to drinking fountains, spread desks farther apart, created outdoor classrooms and more, the Hechinger Report reports. • Broward County district officials tried to reassure families the schools will be as safe as possible as students return this week, WFOR reports.

Some teachers have provided their own classroom safety equipment. In Palm Beach County, teachers who installed makeshift plastic desk shields while awaiting district supplies were told to remove them as possible fire hazards, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Rapid virus tests are on their way. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that 60,000 tests would be distributed this week for school use, WPTV reports.

Thousands of students have yet to show up. Marion County schools hit a 15-year low, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

Across Florida, schools are seeing their enrollments lower than projected as many student — especially in kindergarten — aren't attending.
Across Florida, schools are seeing their enrollments lower than projected as many student — especially in kindergarten — aren't attending. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

COVID-19 has long-term effects. It can make returning to work difficult, as one Broward County teacher is discovering, Bloomberg News reports.

Is the return to campus working out? Miami-Dade County’s superintendent said yes, while some teachers disagreed, WLRN reports.

Distance learning is forcing universities to reexamine their teaching methods. Students and professors have seen the move as necessary, but often difficult, Miami Today reports.

Let’s make a deal. Several Florida school districts are struggling to get their base teacher pay to $47,500. Not Pinellas County. • The Lake County district boosted its entry salary to $44,750, the Daily Commercial reports.

Can a school district be ‘anti-racist’? Some are trying, while others including Miami-Dade County have deemed the idea political grandstanding, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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From the courts ... Some families of victims in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High mass shooting sued the Broward County school district, claiming mental anguish. Lawyers for the district have demanded they prove it with psychiatric records, the Miami Herald reports.

Keep your hands to yourself. A Broward County teacher was suspended without pay for mistreating a student with autism, WSVN reports. The parents say the penalty isn’t enough. • Osceola County students and parents are demanding changes to their district’s sexual assault policies, WKMG reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link from yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Cute alert! Sea World Orlando has a new baby dolphin. It still needs a new name.

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