1. News
  2. /
  3. The Education Gradebook

Florida’s school mask legal battle continues as positivity trends downward

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
A face mask rests atop some school work, Monday morning September 13, 2021 as Volusia County School starts mandatory masks for students.
A face mask rests atop some school work, Monday morning September 13, 2021 as Volusia County School starts mandatory masks for students.
Published Sep. 21
Updated Sep. 21

Declines in new positive coronavirus cases in the schools have led to changes in the way many deal with the pandemic. At least one district is on the brink of lifting its strict mask mandate as its rate dips below 8 percent. Still the battle over school masks continues, both in the court and in the court of public opinion. Read on for that story and more Florida education news.

Lawyers for the Florida Department of Education hoped to short circuit an administrative hearing on the appropriateness of the state’s emergency rule on school masks. They asked a judge to dismiss the case, suggesting the plaintiffs had no standing to bring the case, WTVT reports. The judge rejected the motion for the school boards making the challenge, but said a group of associations and individuals fell short of the “injury in fact” test.

The battle over masks in school board meeting rooms has spilled over into personal attacks. That’s become cause for pause among some board members as they try to look past the discomfort and stay focused on why they ran for office in the first place.

Differences over the issue are stark. The Brevard County School Board, which voted 3-2 to impose its initial strict mandate, today will consider whether to extend its rule for another 30 days, Florida Today reports. • The Escambia County School Board declined to call a special meeting on masks, and some residents don’t want to take no for an answer, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

More coronavirus concerns

The state stopped funding live-remote instruction this year, as it encouraged students to return to in-person classes. Some teachers have continued to use Zoom for quarantined students who choose to attend while out, anyway, WPTV reports.

Positive case counts are declining. Lake County schools saw a week over week dip, reflecting an area trend, the Daily Commercial reports. • Marion County schools recorded a 30 percent decrease in its seven-day count, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. • Manatee County district officials said they would maintain current protocols while watching whether the lower numbers hold over time, the Bradenton Herald reports. • Some Duval County doctors said their school district’s strict mask rule is contributing to a slowdown of virus spread, the Florida Times-Union reports.

A new University of Miami study has suggestions for further reducing the virus spread in schools. They include teacher vaccination and smaller classes, WLRN reports.

The pandemic is taking its toll on school nurses. They’re exhausted, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Other school news

The Hillsborough County School Board rejected applications from Mater Academy to open two charter schools in the district. The group has reapplied.

The Florida Department of Education quietly issued school and district grades on Monday. The grades were optional because of the pandemic, and most districts did not request one, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Today in Tallahassee ... The Senate Education Committee meets at 4 p.m. to discuss testing and accountability. Gov. Ron DeSantis has called on lawmakers to revise the state’s spring testing model, and held a roundtable on the issue in Niceville on Monday, WKMG reports.

Is there $4,700 waiting for you? Florida’s Prepaid Tuition Program has millions of dollars in unclaimed refunds for more than 30,000 families, the News Service of Florida reports.

St. Johns County high school students who harassed members of the Gay-Straight Alliance face discipline. Caught on video, the teens could be suspended or reassigned to an alternative school, among other options, the St. Augustine Record reports.

The Sarasota County School Board is considering new rules for public comment at meetings. Its proposal includes cutting back speaking time if larger numbers of residents want to participate, and holding non-agenda commentary to the end of the session, the Herald-Tribune reports.

“We just want to be represented.” Southern Walton County residents called for two complete School Board member districts for their area during redistricting hearings, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

The Florida Education Association has a new poll. Its results show broad support for better public education funding and higher teacher pay, Florida Politics reports.

The Citrus County school district has a new police chief. He said he likes making a difference in children’s lives, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

From the police blotter ... A Broward County teen faces felony charges over allegations he threatened a school shooting, WSVN reports. • A Lee County sixth grader faces felony charges after allegedly threatening to shoot other students at his school, WINK reports.

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

Before you go ... We offered up some Afrofuturism in for your Monday groove. Today, consider Colombian band Bomba Estéreo’s latest effort, a surreal homage to nature with some lovely video to boot.

• • •

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.