Florida’s school mask mandates are up for renewal. Will they stick?

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Students arrive at Burnett Middle School in Brandon
Students arrive at Burnett Middle School in Brandon [ Ivelliam Ceballo ]
Published Oct. 30, 2020

It seems like we can’t escape the mask conversation, can we? School districts face increasing pressure to drop the mandates, as their initial orders come up for renewal. So far, boards haven’t been inclined to step away from the requirement, as case numbers rise and medical experts promote masks as a key to preventing spread. One prominent Republican leader proposed an alternative for lawmakers to consider. Read on for the latest on this and other Florida education news.

‘Now is not the time to take the foot off the gas.’ Pinellas and Pasco school district officials indicate they’ll extend their mask rules through the end of the school year.

No, there won’t be a mask-free day. Rumors circulated that Pinellas students might get a breather when the district’s order expires and the board hasn’t approved a new one. They’re not true.

So the schools won’t bend. Sarasota lawmaker and state GOP chairman Joe Gruters called on the Legislature to create a private school voucher for children who don’t want to wear masks, the Herald-Tribune reports. They’d just have to find a private school that doesn’t require masks.

Private schools aren’t immune to the coronavirus. Cases have begun to rise in Charlotte County private campuses, the Sun reports.

Schools are open. Kids are returning in larger numbers. Why keep up the lawsuit? Florida Education Association leaders said control over local school operations longterm remains at stake, Florida Phoenix reports.

Yes, some students are receiving positive virus test results. The level isn’t high enough to close any Alachua County schools, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Will remote learning remain? Broward County superintendent Robert Runcie said state leaders should consider science as they decide, WTVJ reports. • In Citrus County, participation in online classes is rapidly shrinking as students head back to schools, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

‘Is it worth risking your life?’ Duval County teens debated the issues relating to in-person schooling, the Florida Times-Union reports. The “con” side won.

Scenes at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in St. Petersburg.
Scenes at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

USF expands access. The university announced it will add eight more area high schools to its guaranteed admission program, the Crow’s Nest at USF St. Petersburg reports.

Take the test. Monroe County high schools try to ensure seniors have access to SAT and ACT exams to help them get into universities, Keys Weekly reports.

No deal. Orange County teacher pay negotiations arrived at impasse after the sides can’t agree on terms to boost base salaries to $47,500, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The cost of money is low. So low that the Manatee County School Board made plans to borrow $100 million to pay for needed construction projects, the Bradenton Herald reports.

Stop the vaping ‘epidemic.’ Lawyers urged the Leon County School Board to join a lawsuit against vape manufacturers. The board didn’t act, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Support grows to suspend A-F school grading. Orange County superintendent Barbara Jenkins joined the call to keep the state’s accountability system on hold for another year, WOFL reports.

The state requires school districts to provide social-emotional learning lessons. Marion County district officials want to know if they can develop their own, after ending a purchased program they didn’t like, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

Making threats against schools is still a crime. A Volusia County teen faces charges for submitting false “tips” about guns on campus, WKMG reports.

From the campaign trail ... The leading opponent to Okaloosa County’s school sales tax referendum said he has no vengeance campaign against district officials. He just doesn’t support the tax, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports. • Miami-Dade County students get a day off Tuesday as several schools serve as voting centers, the Miami Herald reports.

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

Before you go ... Forget the Florida boy bands. How about this African girl band? Its music celebrates equality, empowerment and independence. And its first CD comes out next month.