Florida school mask mandates grow, despite opposition

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
A group of children join opponents of a mask mandate outside the Pinellas County school district headquarters before the school board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in Largo.
A group of children join opponents of a mask mandate outside the Pinellas County school district headquarters before the school board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in Largo. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Sept. 1, 2021|Updated Sept. 1, 2021

Florida school district mask mandates continue to add up in the aftermath of a Leon County court ruling that they’re permissible, despite state plans to fight the verdict and strong parental opposition. The current count has 13 districts requiring doctor’s notes, and several more where parents must submit a form to opt out. Read on for the latest on that story and more Florida education news.

Hernando County schools will begin requiring masks next week. Some board members sought to limit exceptions to medical reasons, but after hearing from the public adopted a parent opt-out form instead. All adults will be expected to wear masks, with few exemptions available.

The Volusia County School Board adopted a universal mandate with a medical opt-out. Some in the crowd shouted they will not comply as the hours-long meeting ended, WESH reports.

Who’s next? The Lake County School Board scheduled a special meeting to talk about masks on Thursday, the Daily Commercial reports.

Brevard County schools faced accusations that they turned away unmasked students on the first day of their universal mask mandate. District officials said that was untrue, as they allowed a five-day grace period to receive a medical exemption form, Florida Today reports.

A single chiropractor was discovered handing out medical exemption letters to many Sarasota County students. The district placed limits on the types of medical professionals who it will accept letters from after learning of the situation, WFLA reports.

Eight districts received warning letters on Friday that their mask rules violate state law. The Palm Beach County School Board hired a high-profile law firm to help it fight back, the Palm Beach Post reports. • Three other districts have joined forces for their legal battle with the state, Florida Politics reports.

Schools are facing other legal challenges over masks, too. A St. Johns County parent said she planned to file a complaint that her child’s school is not providing safe in-person instruction, the St. Augustine Record reports.

Private schools don’t face the same masking restrictions as public schools. Some require masks, others don’t, Florida Phoenix reports.

An Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor resigned when the school made mask wearing optional indoors. The university reversed its policy soon after, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

More coronavirus concerns

The Indian River County school district has shut down another school because of virus cases. It will reopen Sept. 13, TC Palm reports.

The Gulf County school district has closed all its schools amid an outbreak. They will reopen after Labor Day, the Port St. Joe Star reports.

Quarantines are up. A Martin County high school’s football and volleyball teams have canceled games as a result, TC Palm reports. • Quarantines in Polk County schools quadrupled over two weeks to more than 8,000, the Ledger reports.

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A Duval County high school has cramped, long lunch lines daily. Some students have raised safety concerns, WJXT reports.

Other school news

Study hard. The University of Florida will bring a graduate-level campus to Palm Beach County, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Alachua County has a new school board member. Mildred Russell talked about her views with the Gainesville Sun.

There’s a substitute teacher shortage. St. Johns County district office workers taking over classrooms while seeking to hire more subs, WJXT reports.

There’s a bus driver shortage, too. The Escambia County school district is increasing driver pay, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

The Leon County School Board denied a charter school application based on budget and safety concerns. A state board overruled the district, paving the way for the county’s sixth charter school, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Osceola County law enforcement agencies removed officers from local charter schools this year. A task force on school security met to discuss recommended guidelines for the armed school guardians who replaced the officers, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

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

Before you go ... Yesterday we shared the sarcasm-filled commentary of a pro-mask parent from Texas. Today, hear from the other side. This is one of the speakers from a recent Lee County board meeting.

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