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Eyes return to court in Florida’s school mask battle

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Opponents, left, and supporters of a mask mandate, right, square off outside the Pinellas County school district headquarters before the school board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in Largo. The debate over school masks is being played out in courtrooms across Florida.
Opponents, left, and supporters of a mask mandate, right, square off outside the Pinellas County school district headquarters before the school board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in Largo. The debate over school masks is being played out in courtrooms across Florida. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Sep. 8, 2021

Today’s another busy day on the legal front for Florida’s school mask disputes. This morning, Leon County Judge John Cooper will consider eliminating the automatic stay of his ruling against the state’s ban on school mask mandates. If he grants it, expect an immediate appeal. You can listen here. In the afternoon, federal Judge K. Michael Moore will hear arguments in the parent complaint that children with disabilities are losing their federal rights to a free adequate public education while the state’s order remains in place. Before you turn your attention to those hearings, read on for the latest in Florida education news.

Some Pasco County parents on Tuesday urged their School Board to say something about masks in light of all the court activity. The board listened but didn’t act.

Masks continued to generate strong views in St. Johns County after the virus-related death of a student. District officials said they don’t plan to require face coverings, but schools might temporarily close if quarantines grow, WJXT reports. More from the St. Augustine Record.

Several southwest Florida child care centers have imposed mask mandates and other restrictions to limit virus spread. Their goal is to avoid closing, the Naples Daily News reports.

How long will these mask mandates last? The Leon County school district set Labor Day as a benchmark to consider lifting its mask mandate. With cases still strong, the district kept its rule in place, WTXL reports. • The Duval County School Board agreed to leave its rule in place through December unless the community positivity rate declines below 8 percent, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Most students aren’t fighting Orange County’s school mask mandate. Teachers said they’re not having to spend their time enforcing the rule, Spectrum 13 reports.

Who opposes mask mandates? A new national poll shows opposition isn’t as high in Florida as in other states, Forbes reports.

More coronavirus concerns

Maybe the delta variant of COVID-19 has peaked. A University of South Florida expert predicts that it has, WKMG reports.

Still, the push to get school employees vaccinated continues. Thirteen unvaccinated Miami-Dade County school employees have died from COVID-19 since the start of the school year. The United Teachers of Dade hosted a vaccine pop-up clinic to encourage faculty and staff, along with area residents, to get inoculated, the Miami Herald reports. • Palm Beach County schools also are looking for ways to boost the employee vaccination rate. District data show less than 50 percent participation, though it might be higher, the Palm Beach Post reports.

The goal is to keep schools open. An Indian River County elementary resumed in-person classes after a week of remote learning because of quarantines, WPTV reports. • Indian River County school district officials said closing schools remains a ‘last resort,’ as the move creates difficulties for families, TC Palm reports.

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Learning from home during quarantine isn’t easy. The St. Lucie County school district has established a quarantine support staff to help students who’ve been sent home, WPTV reports.

Still, some parents say going to school isn’t safe for children with special needs. As districts canceled many virtual programs, the children’s options became limited, WFTX reports.

Other school news

South Florida schools won’t be taking their state grades this year. If they had, many would have failed, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Wanted: Cafeteria workers. The Orange County school district is offering signing bonuses up to $3,500 as it tries to fill about 150 lunchroom jobs, WKMG reports.

Substitute teachers, too. The Seminole County school district is asking qualified parents to consider joining the substitute teacher pool, WKMG reports.

It’s redistricting time. Ten Walton County residents have begun the work of redrawing school board member districts, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

‘It’s a huge strain.’ An Alachua County high school experienced its fourth bomb threat of the year, the Gainesville Sun reports.

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

Before you go ... It’s football season, which means it’s also marching band season. The FSU Marching Chiefs remembered the late Bobby Bowden in their halftime performance this past weekend.

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