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More Florida school districts look to stricter mask rules

A roundup of Florida education news stories from around the state.
Students arrive at Leto High School for the first day of school for Hillsborough County students, Tuesday, August 10, 2021 in Tampa.
Students arrive at Leto High School for the first day of school for Hillsborough County students, Tuesday, August 10, 2021 in Tampa. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Aug. 17

Coronavirus cases and quarantines continue to rapidly rise in Florida schools, prompting school and district leaders to reconsider their rules on mask usage and other health protocols. Some of the state’s biggest systems chimed in Monday. State officials are pushing back against the most restrictive actions, with the State Board of Education set to hold an emergency meeting at 4 p.m. today to deal with two of them. Lawyers for the state also filed arguments in court saying challenges to the governor’s authority are misplaced. Read on for the latest on this story and more Florida education news.

Hillsborough County school district leaders raised concerns as they saw their student and staff isolation numbers surpass 5,000. The School Board will have an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss stiffening its masking rules. It made its announcement as the state moved to dismiss a Leon County lawsuit challenging its orders on school masks. That hearing comes Thursday.

Miami-Dade County officials said they don’t want to match Hillsborough’s trends. A medical advisory panel recommended a mask mandate with limited health accommodations, and superintendent Alberto Carvalho agreed, the Miami Herald reports. The School Board meets Wednesday.

The Manatee County school district reconsidered its mask-optional policy. The School Board decided to mandate masks with a parental opt put form, WWSB reports. More from the Herald-Tribune.

The Coral Springs charter school district has been following the Broward County school district’s lead on masks. The charter board will meet Wednesday to discuss how to proceed, Coral Springs Talk reports.

A Polk County charter school mandated masks for all adults on campus. The move came in response to 12 positive virus cases, the Ledger reports.

Parents at a lab school attached to the University of Florida rallied for a mask mandate. They want the school to follow the Alachua County district instead of UF’s policies, WCJB reports. More from the Gainesville Sun. Meanwhile, Alachua School Board members are near the point of reviewing whether to maintain their requirement, the Gainesville Sun reports.

President Biden has threatened to intervene in Florida’s school mask debate. His options are limited, PolitiFact Florida reports.

It’s not just Florida. Tennessee’s governor is the latest to issue an order stating that parents have a right to opt out of school mask mandates, the Tennessean reports. • An Alabama lawmaker announced plans to propose legislation to ban school mask mandates, AL.com reports.

Other coronavirus concerns

The Orange County school district set a new daily high for positive virus cases. A growing number of students submitted mask opt-out forms, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Several other districts have seen their case numbers rise, too. The spread in Palm Beach County isn’t occurring in schools at this point, the Palm Beach Post reports. • The trends are up in Lake County (Daily Commercial), Marion County (Ocala Star Banner) and across the Treasure Coast (TC Palm), as well.

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School districts offered employees paid COVID leave beyond sick leave last year. Teachers in Duval and St. Johns counties are asking for the same again this year, WJXT reports.

Some students aren’t coming back just yet. The Brevard County school district reported enrollment about 3,700 students below projections, Florida Today reports.

More school news

The NCAA called on hosts of future championship events to reaffirm their commitment to nondiscriminatory environments for all athletes. The action could have an effect on Florida’s ability to have competitions here.

Florida gets millions in federal funds to help disabled students get job training. It sent back more than $21 million unused during the pandemic, Florida Politics reports.

Back to school? The Santa Rosa County school district will resume operations after a day off for Tropical Storm Fred, the Pensacola News Journal reports. • But several other Panhandle districts will stay closed for a second day, including Bay County (Panama City News Herald) and Gulf County (Port St. Joe Star).

What not to wear. Some Martin County students have started a petition challenging the school district’s dress code, which they contend is demeaning to girls, WPTV reports.

Wanted: Bus drivers. Many Florida school districts are experiencing their worst driver shortages in years, resulting in late routes to school and back home, the Associated Press reports. The situation has the St. Johns County school district offering signing bonuses up to $3,000, WJAX reports.

Brevard County schools are working to get take-home laptops into student hands. They’re starting with middle schools, WKMG reports.

The Archdiocese of Miami has a new schools superintendent. Jim Rigg is spending his time visiting campuses to hear from students, staff and parents about what the schools need, Florida Catholic reports.

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

Before you go ... School district staffs are back to making videos to show they’re again ready for whatever comes. Here’s one from Pasco County’s Wiregrass Elementary.

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