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Tempers flare over school masks, as vaccine eligibility grows

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Nurse practitioner Paula Joseph, of Tampa, draws a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine while providing vaccination shots in April at Iglesia Tampa Bay in Tampa. The Pfizer shots are expected to be made available to children ages 12-15 within days.
Nurse practitioner Paula Joseph, of Tampa, draws a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine while providing vaccination shots in April at Iglesia Tampa Bay in Tampa. The Pfizer shots are expected to be made available to children ages 12-15 within days. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 13
Updated May 13

We’re in the home stretch for the school year, and already many people have started focusing on what the summer and fall will look like. Much depends on continued progress away from the coronavirus pandemic. Things are looking up as vaccinations become more available. But people remain at odds as they fight over masks. Read on for that story and more Florida education news.

Approval for 12- to 15-year-olds to get the Pfizer vaccination came Wednesday. Many parents say they’re looking forward to having their children inoculated, so they can return to school. But the enthusiasm is not universal. • The Miami-Dade County school district has plans to distribute the vaccinations at three schools to students and employees, the Miami Herald reports.

As the shots become more common, schools across Florida are abandoning their mask mandates. Public health officials worry it’s not yet the right move, the Associated Press reports. • The Collier County School Board is exploring its options, the Naples Daily News reports. • The Citrus County School Board set a June 14 date to vote on repealing its mask policy, the Citrus County Chronicle reports. • The Volusia County School Board is working through procedures to modify its mask policy, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • The Okeechobee County School Board chose to make masks optional effective immediately, WPEC reports. • The Martin County School Board left its mask mandate in place for the final 12 days of the semester, going voluntary afterward, TC Palm reports.

As districts move toward voluntary masks, some parents want faster action. A group defied the Manatee County School Board’s rule at its meeting, where the board kept its rule intact, with plans to vote on an end on May 25, the Bradenton Herald reports. More from the Herald-Tribune. • One Charlotte County man was removed from the Polk County board meeting after berating the members over masks and refusing to stop, the Ledger reports.

More federal relief money is headed to Florida’s universities. Millions are aimed at emergency financial aid for students.

Leadership issues

It’s a done deal. Polk County’s new superintendent has a signed contract, the Ledger reports. He’ll be paid more than outgoing superintendent Jacqueline Byrd, who offered an emotional farewell on her way out, the Ledger reports. • The district also reached a tentative agreement on teacher pay raises, WTSP reports.

Volusia County’s superintendent is getting a $10,000 bonus for creating a district strategic plan. The teachers union president noted the superintendent is among the highest paid in the state, while the teachers are closer to the bottom. She called for more equity, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

A former Sarasota County School Board member wants a political consultant to pay his legal fees. Eric Robinson said the consultant filed politically motivated complaints against him, leading to his reelection bid loss, the Herald-Tribune reports.

More details are emerging regarding the indictments of two top Broward County school district officials. Transcripts of grand jury testimony offer added insights into the allegations against the two, the Miami Herald reports. • Departing superintendent Robert Runcie and general counsel Barbara Myrick entered “not guilty” pleas to the charges against them, WFOR reports.

Other school news

‘Don’t leave marks.’ A north Florida senator offers support for corporal punishment in schools, as controversy swirls over the paddling of a Hendry County six-year-old, the Daily Mail reports.

Never mind. The First Amendment Foundation retracted its allegations that the Nassau County School Board violated Florida’s open meetings laws during teacher contract negotiations, the Fernandina Beach News Leader reports.

Safety first. A Leon County elementary school will teach students bicycle safety on a new campus bicycle “road,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Don’t miss a story. Yesterday’s roundup is just a click away.

Before you go ... If you have any question about where the state is headed for the coming school year, listen to Gov. Ron DeSantis spell it out. As he notes, many schools already have started in this direction.