1. News
  2. /
  3. The Education Gradebook

Florida resists federal school recovery money. And fights about masks.

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Cassie Miller, Assistant Manager of Food and Nutrition Services, hands out pre-packaged meals on in 2020 at Fivay High in Hudson. The school was one of seven to serve as meal distribution sites for Pasco County students during the first months of the pandemic.
Cassie Miller, Assistant Manager of Food and Nutrition Services, hands out pre-packaged meals on in 2020 at Fivay High in Hudson. The school was one of seven to serve as meal distribution sites for Pasco County students during the first months of the pandemic. [ MICHELE MILLER | Times ]
Published Aug. 31

Throughout the pandemic, many Floridians have come to see that local schools represent more than a place for classes. One key role they played was providing meals to children who otherwise might go hungry. That option continues today. But change might be on the way. Read on for the latest on that story, the state’s ongoing school mask battle and more Florida education news.

The federal government has offered states millions more for feeding low-income children when school’s out. A spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida doesn’t need the money. • The state also is one of only five not to submit a plan for another round of federal school pandemic recovery funds, Florida Phoenix reports.

School masks

Leon County Judge John Cooper’s official ruling on school mask rules hasn’t yet taken effect. The Florida Department of Education took advantage of the lag time to begin financially penalizing the Alachua and Broward school boards, something the judge appeared to enjoin the department from doing once the official decision is released, the News Service of Florida reports. Broward school officials remained defiant, while the plaintiffs’ lawyer suggested the department’s move violated the ruling, the Miami Herald reports.

Cooper’s oral arguments began impacting court activity in other ways. His findings affected pleadings in legal challenges brewing in other courts. • A federal lawsuit focusing on masks and children with disabilities is among the cases still in the offing, WLRN reports. The judge in that case has scheduled a Sept. 8 hearing. • The Leon County School Board plans to meet Thursday to discuss its legal options, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. • Gov. Ron. DeSantis found heart in the judge’s ruling, too, saying it opened the door for a strong appeal, Florida Politics reports.

Cooper’s words also bolstered more mask mandate action in several districts. The Brevard County School Board imposed a 30-day requirement effective immediately, Florida Today reports. • Lee County’s superintendent announced the district would remove the opt-out provision from its mask mandate effective Sept. 1, WBBH reports. More from the Fort Myers News-Press. • Lake County school district officials told parents they’re looking into the possibility, the Daily Commercial reports. • The Seminole County School Board called a special meeting for Thursday to contemplate a new mask mandate, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • The Volusia County School Board meets today to discuss its mask plans, WOFL reports.

Mask up or go home. Sarasota County began enforcing its mask rule on Monday, the Herald-Tribune reports. • A Venice chiropractor has signed dozens of mask exemption forms for Sarasota County students, raising questions among critics, WFLA reports. • Some Orange County parents protested their district’s new mask requirement on its first day of implementation, WESH reports.

All this district defiance has some Republican state officials displeased. There’s talk of lawmakers calling a special session to make appointed superintendents accountable to the governor’s office. Legal experts called that idea a tall order.

Not every district followed the mandate path. An Osceola County School Board member couldn’t get a second to support a motion to require a doctor’s note to get out of that district’s face covering rule, WKMG reports. More from the Orlando Sentinel. • The Nassau County school district’s new policy allows students to opt out of masks, but not staff, WJXT reports. • The Citrus County school district reiterated its mask-optional policy, and said the issue will not be on its next school board agenda, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

It’s not just Florida. The federal government launched civil rights investigations into five states that ban school mask mandates. Florida wasn’t in the initial group, but it is being monitored, the Associated Press reports.

More coronavirus concerns

The Florida Department of Education gave schools a new guidance for how to deal with coronavirus cases. Some doctors said they’d like to see more aggressive mitigation strategies from the department, WJXT reports.

The Manatee County school district set new rules for when to close classrooms. So far six schools have used the procedure, WWSB reports.

The Taylor County school district is closing its schools for Sept. 2-3. Too many teachers are dealing with quarantines, WTXL reports.

Other school news

‘Several’ Pasco County teachers have been placed on administrative leave. They’re being investigated for fraud on the job.

A Hernando County charter middle school was struggling to stay afloat. Its new principal has plans to get the school back on its feet, the Hernando Sun reports.

Looking for something to read? Some Bay County high school students are making micro-libraries and delivering them to neighborhoods, the Panama City News Herald reports.

The Marion County School Board has a new member. Gov. Ron DeSantis filled the position, which had been vacant more than a year, with a retired businessman, WCJB reports.

The Department of Education has reorganized at the top. The new chief of staff is Bethany Swonson, Florida Politics reports.

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

Before you go ... Florida isn’t the only place to have school mask debates. This Texas man offered an interesting viewpoint to his local school board on the subject.

• • •

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.