Florida school districts to learn their fate over mask mandates

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
St Petersburg High School students, Sydney Conroy, 17, left and Toby Lam, 17 both wear a masks as they walk to the school for the first day of classes for the new school season. "I'm unvaccinated and I want to be safe," said Conroy.
St Petersburg High School students, Sydney Conroy, 17, left and Toby Lam, 17 both wear a masks as they walk to the school for the first day of classes for the new school season. "I'm unvaccinated and I want to be safe," said Conroy. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Oct. 7, 2021|Updated Oct. 7, 2021

Today’s the day the State Board of Education considers whether to sanction school boards that imposed strict mask mandates without a parental opt out this fall. In advance of the 1 p.m. conference call, which you can hear on The Florida Channel, some of the boards including in Hillsborough and Sarasota counties backed away from their rules. Others held firm. Read on for the latest on that story, plus more Florida education news.

Miami-Dade County district leaders said they will not meet the state directive on masks. They did agree to modify their quarantine protocols, though, the Miami Herald reports.

The Palm Beach County School Board set criteria for lifting its mask mandate. They’re tied to the availability of vaccinations for children under 12 and a decrease of positive virus cases, the Palm Beach Post reports.

The federal government has offered a grant to cover the wages of school board members who are penalized by the state. At the request of a Broward County board member, the Florida Commission on Ethics reviewed the situation and declared the payments would not violate state rules on gifts and compensation, the News Service of Florida reports.

A question remains over whether the state had an emergency to base its emergency rule upon. A new challenge before the Division of Administrative Hearings now has five districts participating, WTXL reports.

More coronavirus concerns

Fallout continued for Gov. DeSantis’ decision to not yet seek the third round of federal stimulus funding. Democrats and district leaders blasted the inaction, Florida Politics reports. • Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho sent a letter to the state urging them to request billions in federal aid that will help districts combat the negative effects of the pandemic, the Herald reports. • The Governor’s Office said it plans to eventually apply for the money, the Orlando Sentinel reports. (Subscription required)

The Duval County school district proposed $200 incentives for employees to get vaccinated. The School Board killed that initiative, the Florida Times-Union reports.

District leadership

Sarasota County School Board members are talking about revamping public commentary during meetings. They argued among themselves as they failed to reach resolution on the issue, WUSF reports. National pundits meanwhile spent some time talking about the Sarasota board, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Palm Beach County schools no longer have an interim superintendent. Two months after taking the helm, Mike Burke was granted the permanent job, the Palm Beach Post reports.

The Brevard County School Board removed the audience from a recent meeting on mask policy. State Rep. Randy Fine accused the board of violating the state Sunshine Law and filed a criminal complaint against the chairperson, Space Coast Daily reports.

Hot topics

School security: Saying gaps still exist three years after Parkland, Broward County school district officials asked lawmakers to allow school boards to increase their tax rates to pay for resource officers and other security measures, Florida Politics reports. • The Jackson County school district handed control of school security back to law enforcement after operating its own police department for five years, WMBB reports.

Religion in school: A Duval County public school promoted an event supporting Christianity and encouraged students to bring Bibles to school. Parents and community members quickly raised concerns, including why the school would back a single religion, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Testing: Broward County superintendent Vickie Cartwright urged state lawmakers to follow through on Gov. DeSantis’ call to reduce students’ spring testing load, Florida Politics reports.

Online education: The Leon County education foundation plans to hire e-learning tutors to help children with their homework, WCTV reports. • Florida Virtual School is rebranding its offerings for services outside the state, reimaginED reports.

Living conditions: The Duval County School Board adopted a resolution deploring the poor conditions of a low-income apartment complex. The district maintained the situation is detrimental to children’s educational opportunities, WTLV reports.

From the court docket ... A Brevard County family is suing the school district after their son was knocked unconscious during high school baseball practice, WESH reports. • The Lee County school district paid more than $700,000 to settle lawsuits with two whistleblowers, WFTX reports.

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

Before you go ... Broadway is back. And Moulin Rouge is racking up the accolades. If you liked the movie, how about a stage musical? Here’s the show’s Tony performance.

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