By Kevin Deutsch
Broward County Public Schools again reversed course on its mask mandate for students Wednesday, with district officials stating they would keep the mask requirement in place while weighing their options.
“Last week, the School Board of Broward County mandated the wearing of masks in our schools to protect our students, staff, and community,” the district said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “In light of the Governor’s Executive Order, the District is awaiting further guidance before rendering a decision on the mask mandate for the upcoming school year. At this time, the District’s face covering policy, which requires the use of masks in District schools and facilities, remains in place.”
The School Board will discuss “next steps” at a Special School Board Meeting on Tuesday, August 10, according to the district.
On July 28, the school board voted unanimously to continue its mandatory mask policy to begin the school year, as Florida’s COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations reach record-breaking levels. But the school system quickly backtracked on its policy requiring masks for kids after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order barring student mask mandates.
“Broward County Public Schools intends to comply with the Governor’s latest Executive Order,’’ the district said in a statement Tuesday, before its latest policy shift.
As of today, the district’s policy states that face coverings will be mandatory for students, staff, and visitors at all schools and district facilities, but no masks will be required when outdoors. The policy follows current CDC guidance recommending “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.”
DeSantis’ “Ensuring Parents’ Freedom to Choose Masks in Schools” executive order, issued Friday, grants Florida’s Board of Education the power to withhold funding from any district that requires masks for students.
Florida’s Constitution gives local school districts the authority to “operate, control and supervise” their facilities, making no mention of the governor’s authority in that realm.
Broward schools did not respond to an inquiry about whether it was weighing a legal challenge to DeSantis’ order.
The first day of school is Wednesday, August 18, with face-to-face learning on all campuses.
Data show that Broward and Miami-Dade Counties currently lead the U.S. in new COVID-19 hospitalizations, with more than 95 percent of hospitalized patients unvaccinated.
According to federal health data, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida rose to a record-breaking 12,408 as of Wednesday, as delays in care lengthened and hospitals began suspending elective procedures. More than 400 COVID deaths were reported across the state last week.
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