1. News
  2. /
  3. The Education Gradebook

Schools, parents question validity of DeSantis mask order

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Schools across Florida required students to wear masks during the 2020-21 school year. The debate is ongoing over whether such mandates will continue into fall 2021.
Schools across Florida required students to wear masks during the 2020-21 school year. The debate is ongoing over whether such mandates will continue into fall 2021. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]
Published Aug. 5

Gov. DeSantis spooked many school districts last week with his executive order aiming to ban school mask mandates. As they took a closer look, some started raising pointed questions. Read on for the latest on that story and more Florida education news.

Some districts began to push back, suggesting they might impose mandates anyway. They said they have lawyers exploring the validity of the order. Some also appealed to DeSantis for support of local control. More from the Herald-Tribune.

Others still worried about the order. The Palm Beach County School Board kept its mask-optional policy, though it dropped the word ‘optional’ in favor of ‘strongly encouraged,’ the Palm Beach Post reports.

The governor’s order doesn’t apply to private schools. One Brevard County Episcopal school is requiring masks, and seeing parent interest as a result, Florida Today reports.

It also doesn’t address adults. The Orange County school district issued a mask mandate for all employees, volunteers and visitors for the first month of school, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Some national legal experts said the order doesn’t do much at all. “The executive order is no more than a glorified press release telling Florida health and education officials to write rules that follow Florida law,” a Columbia University law professor told CNN.

Opposition to mask mandates remains. One Orange County mom worried that kids might be bullied for their mask choices, Spectrum 13 reports.

Florida is not the only state debating school masks. Arkansas’s Republican governor said he regrets having signed a law banning local mask mandates, the Washington Post reports.

More coronavirus concerns

The demand for increased health-safety protocols continues to rise. University of Florida faculty and students called for added protections on campus. • Keiser University said it would require its employees to become vaccinated to keep their jobs, the Palm Beach Post reports. • Some Osceola County parents are rallying for a return to masks, distance learning and other activities, WESH reports.

Summer school is making a difference. About 200 Bay County students earned promotion after completing summer programs aimed at helping them catch up, the Panama City News Herald reports.

Home schooling is on the rise in Florida. During the pandemic, the number of students participating increased by 35 percent, the News Service of Florida reports.

Virtual school enrollment also is higher than in usual years. Florida Virtual is expecting more than 9,000 full-time students this year, WTSP reports.

Other school news

Welcome back. One-time University of South Florida trustee and student Rhea Law returned to the campus as interim president.

The Florida Education Association accused the Governor’s Office of withholding millions in federal funds from schools. A spokesperson for the governor said school districts don’t need the money yet, Florida Politics reports.

School districts are still struggling to find bus drivers. The Orange County district encouraged families to drive their children to school if they can, to help cut crowding on buses, WKMG reports.

It’s not just drivers. Districts also are looking for teachers, classroom aides, cafeteria workers and other new employees, WJXT reports.

Clay County is among Florida’s fastest growing communities. School officials are planning for enrollment to grow by 10,000 students over 20 years, Clay Today reports.

From the court docket ... The Florida Citizens Alliance has sued the Broward County school district, claiming the district refused to provide public records relating to books available in schools, Christian Post reports.

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

Before you go ... Anyone remember typewriters? Saw this video and thought you’d like it.

• • •

Sign up for the Gradebook newsletter!

Every Thursday, get the latest updates on what’s happening in Tampa Bay area schools from Times education reporter Jeffrey S. Solochek. Click here to sign up.