Florida’s school mask rule debate remains heated

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Second graders practice social distancing while lining up for lunch on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 at Innovations Preparatory Academy in Wesley Chapel. Many school districts across Florida are debating how long to maintain their mask mandates.
Second graders practice social distancing while lining up for lunch on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 at Innovations Preparatory Academy in Wesley Chapel. Many school districts across Florida are debating how long to maintain their mask mandates. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 3, 2021|Updated May 3, 2021

As we enter May, the Florida legislative session is over. Students begin another round of exams, if they want. Things are winding down. What’s left to do but continue arguing about masks? Read on for the latest on that story and more Florida education news.

Be safe. With tempers flaring over mask policy, the Pasco County School Board is adding security to its meetings.

Many districts are maintaining their mask mandates to the end of the semester. Santa Rosa County’s superintendent is recommending cutting the requirement short, WEAR reports. • The Manatee County School Board prepared to have its mask rule end on June 1, unless conditions worsen, the Bradenton Herald reports.

Doing away with masks might be premature, though, one expert says. USF pediatrics professor Patricia Emmanuel says they’re an important mitigation measure until more children can be vaccinated, WUSF reports.

More coronavirus concerns

The Miami private school that won’t hire people who get the coronavirus vaccination didn’t surprise those in the know. “It’s a cult,” some parents and former employees told the Miami Herald. More from the NY Times.

Most schools want their employees — and eligible students — to get vaccinated. The Leon County school district launched a campaign encouraging staff to do so, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. • The Broward County school district will begin providing vaccinations for students and staff at schools, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • More than 1,500 people came out for inoculations offered at three Orange County schools, WKMG reports.

Graduation day is almost here. Acquiescing to pressure, the Hillsborough and Manatee school districts decided to give graduates more tickets for guests, WTSP reports. • Palm Beach County seniors said they’re excited to get in-person graduations, WPTV reports.

School news

Broward County residents are assessing the tenure of superintendent Robert Runcie as he prepares to resign. It’s filled with accomplishments and exaggerations, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • The district’s general counsel, also resigning, did not enter a plea in her court case and filed a motion to dismiss, the Miami Herald reports.

Duval County schools are polling residents for views on renaming schools. Community activists say more young people need to join the discussion, WTLV reports.

A court will decide whether a Duval County teacher had the right to display a Black Lives Matter flag in her classroom. Some experts suggested the teacher has a tough legal case to prove, WJCT reports.

That’s a wrap. An 88-year-old Volusia County substitute teacher retires after 20 years in classrooms, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Polk County voters approved a sales tax to pay for needed school capital projects. The district has 36 projects under way as a result, the Ledger reports.

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St. Johns County students and parents have been protesting the district dress code as sexist. Some experts say they have a point, the St. Augustine Record reports.

Schools are still reacting to the 2018 Parkland shooting. The Citrus County School Board is near adding a mandated panic alarm system on its campuses, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

Tallahassee action

And they were worried about cuts. Florida lawmakers adopted a record $101.5 billion budget, with help from federal stimulus funds.

Lawmakers delayed a plan to let college athletes benefit financially from the use of their name and likeness. After realizing their mistake, they abruptly reversed course in the final moments of the 2021 session.

Gov. Ron DeSantis promised legislation to protect college and university students from punishment for violating social distancing rules. That bill never appeared, Fresh Take Florida reports.

Another one also bit the dust. A Senate proposal to alter Bright Future scholarship amounts died in committee, Florida Today reports.

Before you go ... Just when you thought it couldn’t get better, there’s a new director’s cut of the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. With more Prince!