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Florida’s school mask mandate debate continues

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine shots are dispensed to people in vehicles on Monday, April 5, 2021, at Saint Leo University, which is serving as the host for the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution for East Pasco County. The Pasco County commission lifted its mask order on Monday, while the school district announced it would keep its mandate in place.
Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine shots are dispensed to people in vehicles on Monday, April 5, 2021, at Saint Leo University, which is serving as the host for the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution for East Pasco County. The Pasco County commission lifted its mask order on Monday, while the school district announced it would keep its mandate in place. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Apr. 6
Updated Apr. 6

As coronavirus vaccinations become more widely available, the perhaps inevitable next pressure point is masks. Floridians in several counties have pressured their school boards to end their mask mandates, most often with little success. At least one county government ended its mask rule on Monday, resulting in a social media outcry for the schools — which operate separately from counties — to follow suit. Read on for the latest on this story and other Florida education news.

Keep those masks on. The Pasco County Commission rescinded its executive order mandating masks. Its action did not apply to the county’s public schools, where the requirement remains in place. “I cannot in good conscience abandon our health and safety protocols at this time,” schools superintendent Kurt Browning said, adding he hoped to end mask use by the fall semester. The Pasco School Board meets today. Will the anti-maskers show up?

Get ready for graduation. Marion County’s high schools are negotiating a location for in-person ceremonies, with each graduate getting six tickets for guests, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

In the schools

State testing began Monday. Some Duval County teachers said absences were high, WJXT reports.

Sarasota County schools need crossing guards for students’ safety. The school district and Sheriff’s Office are squabbling over which should cover the $260,000 price tag, the Herald-Tribune reports.

What’s in a name? An advisory committee is expected to release its proposed options to renaming Duval County’s Robert E. Lee High, WJXT reports.

St. Johns County school enrollment is booming. The district plans to open two new high schools in the next two years, WTLV reports.

Tallahassee action

Florida lawmakers say they support school choice. When it comes to virtual schooling, some House members are trying to limit options, Florida Politics reports.

Teacher unions say they’re under attack by “paycheck protection” legislation this spring. They’ve launched an ad campaign to fight the measure, Florida Politics reports. • The Senate is considering whether to remove law enforcement and firefighter unions from the bill, which would still include teachers, Florida Politics reports.

Today in Tallahassee ... The House Education Committee will consider a bill limiting transgender student participation in school sports when it meets a 9 a.m. • The Senate Rules Committee will take up legislation on moments of silence in schools and a parents’ “bill of rights” when it meets at 9:30 a.m.

Other news

From the police blotter ... The Palm Beach County school district is moving to fire a teacher arrested on accusations of offering to pay for sex with a toddler, the Palm Beach Post reports.

From the court docket ... A Flagler County high school student who threatened in writing to kill the school dean received a lighter than expected plea deal, Flagler Live reports.

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

Before you go ... Have you been missing field trips lately? They’re back in Pinellas County, where these elementary students got to check out the environmental preserve.