School mask rules continue to stir Florida parents, teachers

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
A student is pictured holding her mask as she walks to class on the first day of school of the 2020-2021 school year for Pinellas County students.
A student is pictured holding her mask as she walks to class on the first day of school of the 2020-2021 school year for Pinellas County students. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published July 28, 2021

With coronavirus cases on the rise, Florida’s school districts are facing pressure to reinstate mask mandates for the fall. Few have any plans to take that step, and they’ve been clear on that subject. Still. people from both sides continue to make their case. And Gov. Ron DeSantis keeps on repeating his political position for anyone who wants to listen. Read on for the latest on that story and more Florida education news.

DeSantis held a secret roundtable discussion on the evils of masks, featuring people who agree with him. In the session, which he posted on Rumble rather than The Florida Channel, DeSantis again threatened to call the Legislature into special session if any districts defy his will on masks. More from WPTV, Florida Phoenix.

Experts continue to criticize the governor’s stance on the pandemic. They say there’s not much science behind it, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Tampa-area district officials repeated their intention to keep masks optional. That didn’t stop passionate pleas from both sides of the debate at board meetings across the region. Generally speaking, most districts are sticking with mask optional rules, including Leon (Tallahassee Democrat), St. Lucie (WPTV), Lee (WFTX) and Collier (WINK).

The possibility of imposing another mandate still exists, though. Sumter County superintendent Rick Shirley wouldn’t rule it out as virus cases surge, the Villages News reports. • Miami-Dade County superintendent Alberto Carvalho also said a decision on masks in schools should not be rushed, WFOR reports.

Can districts do it? A prominent state education lawyer says they have the authority but, with DeSantis taking a hard-line stance, they’d better prepare to defend their actions, the Herald-Tribune reports.

A group of parents started a petition to require masks in Duval County schools. Hundreds of supporters quickly signed on, WTLV reports.

The Manatee County school district asked elementary parents if they’d like their children to be assigned to classrooms based on mask preference. Administrators are reviewing the response to see if it warrants mask-only classes, the Herald-Tribune reports.

The Broward County School Board planned to discuss its mask policy at a workshop. It canceled the session after mask opponents showed up and refused to wear face coverings as requested, the Miami Herald reports. Its direction on masks could change as federal guidance evolves, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Vaccinations appear to offer a level of protection from the virus. State University System presidents are urging students to participate before returning to campus.

Rapid testing might allow some students, staff to avoid lengthy quarantines. The Flagler County school district has agreed to using testing in such a manner once classes resume, Flagler Live reports.

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Other school news

Some Hillsborough County schools are half filled, while others are over capacity. The school district is bringing in a consultant, for nearly $500,000, to help work through any school attendance zone changes that might resolve some of the problems.

The Pinellas County school district has a new agreement with law enforcement governing campus policing. The deal faces skepticism within the community, where some worry officers are given too free a hand over their children.

Several Osceola County charter schools are switching from resource officers to school guardians. Some parents worry the guardians’ training is not sufficient, WESH reports.

A Hernando County charter school fell on hard times during the pandemic. The district School Board is trying to help the charter survive, Suncoast News reports.

The St. Johns County School Board continued to debate dress code changes. The district, which has faced accusations of unfair implementation of the rules, expects to have revisions in place in early August, WJXT reports.

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

Before you go ... One of the youngest TED Talk speakers offers some interesting thoughts on early education. Check it out.

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