Recent Florida school districts are ending their mask mandates

Recent Florida school districts are ending their mask mandates

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Citing declines in COVID-19 cases, three county school boards decided this week to end mask requirements for students at all grade levels.

Board decisions in Alashua, Miami-Dade and Broward counties mean that all eight school districts that have faced financial penalties from the state because of mask mandates have reversed course.

The Alachua and Miami-Dade boards voted to allow parents to submit forms to opt out of elementary and middle school students from mask policies. Both councils had previously voted to allow parents of high school students to opt out of the mask requirement.

Broward County School Board voted to make masks optional for all students without a “formal opt-out process.”

The three school boards, along with councils in Palm Beach, Lyon, Orange, Duval and Brevard counties, faced financial penalties from the Florida Department of Education after they bucked state efforts to block mask mandates. The fines were equal to the monthly salaries of board members.

Orange County schools are making face masks optional for teachers, starting tomorrow

Orange County schools are making face masks optional for teachers, starting tomorrow

Written by Alex Galbraith


Councils in Alachua, Miami-Dade, Broward, Lyon, Orange and Duval filed a legal challenge against the Florida Department of Health rule that was the basis for the financial penalties. This rule states that parents have “freedom to do” about whether students wear masks in schools.

Administrative Law Judge Brian Newman last week upheld the rule, writing that the Department of Health struck the “right balance” and that attorneys on school boards had failed to demonstrate that allowing parents to opt out of mask requirements facilitated the spread of COVID-19 in schools. The Miami-Dade, Broward, Alachua, Duval and Leon boards appealed Newman’s ruling to the 4th District Court of Appeals, although Leon withdrew from the case this week.

“Our situation now is, basically, we have no way forward in the courts. And I think it’s time to put that aside. We also have low numbers (COVID-19). We all know this can change. But we are in a better position than we were.” On it a while ago,” Robert Hyatt, Alashua board member, who asked his board of directors to hold a special meeting on Wednesday to address mask requirements.

While Alachua parents will initially have to submit forms to opt out their children for the mask requirement, they will not need to do so after students return from winter break on January 4.

Also taking into account Wednesday’s Alachua board vote was the FDA’s recent authorization of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11. Council members noted that students will have enough time to get their full vaccinations before the start of the next semester.

“It takes us to the end of the school year, that’s how I see it. It gives space for parents who want to vaccinate their children to do this and develop immunity,” said board member Tina Sertin.

The Miami-Dade Mask’s opt-out is set to go into effect Friday. In a statement on its website, the district said it will “continue to follow the science, consult with our medical experts, and review our protocols on a weekly basis to identify opportunities to make further modifications to COVID-19 protocols.”

Broward Council voted Tuesday to make masks optional for students starting November 20. The district has made it clear that it will also follow part of the state health department’s rule that gives parents discretion over whether asymptomatic students go to school after being exposed to COVID-19.

Broward temporary school principal Vicki Cartwright highlighted the district’s efforts to vaccinate students in a video about the mask policy change.

“By the time of the Thanksgiving break, we will have covered about 70 percent of our elementary schools as much as we give the school site a chance, with parental permission, to vaccinate a child,” Cartwright said.

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