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Decision near on Florida’s school mask mandate rule

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Administrative law judge Brian Newman conducts a second day hearing on six school districts' challenge of a Florida Department of Health emergency rule on school mask mandates on Oct. 22, 2021.
Administrative law judge Brian Newman conducts a second day hearing on six school districts' challenge of a Florida Department of Health emergency rule on school mask mandates on Oct. 22, 2021. [ Florida Division of Administrative Hearings ]
Published Oct. 25

An administrative law judge heard two day’s worth of testimony on whether the state Department of Health had the authority to issue an emergency rule barring schools from having mask mandates without opt-out provisions. Now it’s up to him to make a ruling. In the meantime, some of the districts challenging the rule began changing their policies. Read on for that story and more Florida education news.

Brevard County schools have dropped the mandatory mask rule that led to state sanctions against the School Board. Officials said they would allow parent opt outs if the local positivity rate dropped to 5 per 10,000 residents, which it did on Friday, Florida Today reports.

The move came on the same day the district and five others concluded their legal challenge of the state’s emergency rule banning strict mask mandates. Judge Brian Newman will issue a ruling by Nov. 5, the News Service of Florida reports.

Other districts also are relaxing their mask rules. The Seminole County schools will make masks fully optional in November, WKMG reports. • The Marion County school district lifted its mask requirement and also announced volunteers would be able to resume activities on campus, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

But not all of them. The Palm Beach County school district is at least a month from ending its restrictions, as it hasn’t met all the criteria officials set for doing so, the Palm Beach Post reports.

The federal government has offered a grant to repay board members whom the state sanctions over mask rules. The Florida Commission on Ethics ruled that it’s okay for the boards to take the money, Florida Politics reports.

Surgeon general Joseph Ladapo, who issued the emergency rule, still faces Senate confirmation. He refused to wear a mask when meeting with Sen. Tina Polsky, who is undergoing cancer treatment and asked him to do so as a precaution, Florida Politics reports.

In higher ed

The University of South Florida had planned to have a new president on board by January. Now officials don’t plan to begin candidate interviews until March.

The University of Florida plans to demolish graduate student housing built in the 1970s. Students are fighting the move, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Career training

Students in a Pinellas County high school’s veterinary program are getting a new hands-on experience. Take a look at what the students at Tarpon Springs High see when they work on their synthetic dog cadavers.

Speaking of veterinary programs. The St. Johns County school district is preparing a new academy to focus on veterinary skills, the St. Augustine Record reports.

Many girls say computer coding is ‘boring.’ A Miami non-profit organization is working to teach girls that coding can be creative and fun, the Miami Herald reports.

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Other school news

Lee County students will be graded under a new system using points instead of letters. The goal is to help students more accurately see where they are and then advance more quickly, WINK reports.

The Alachua County school district’s first land purchase with revenue from a local-option sales tax has created a scandal. Real estate agents involved are accused of driving up the price to boost their commissions, Fresh Take Florida reports.

Residents of Cape Coral will be paying more for their electric utility. The increased charges will help pay off the city’s charter school system debt, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Flagler County high schools are offering free voluntary heart screenings to student-athletes. Officials are discussing whether to make them mandatory, Flagler Live reports.

Law enforcement is now investigating an Okaloosa County high school teacher who showed students an R-rated movie. Some parents alleged the teacher was involved in the presentation of pornography to minors, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

Before you go ... It’s time for another Bored Teachers humor video on the profession. Recognize these traits in anyone you know?

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