Florida school mask mandates questioned after governor’s order

Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
·3 min read

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law and two executive orders Monday aimed at ending local government restrictions on individual liberties because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many details didn’t come out until late in the day, leaving school officials scrambling to determine how their rules might be affected. Read on for the latest on that story and other Florida education news.

The governor’s immediate order referred specifically to emergency orders “issued by a county or municipality.” School districts are neither. The Department of Education announced later in the evening that the order did not apply to schools.

Some school district’s didn’t wait. The Santa Rosa County school district immediately dropped its mask mandate, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

Others made clear they would stick to their rules. Palm Beach County school officials said students who refuse to wear masks might be reassigned to distance learning, WPTV reports. • Central Florida districts notified families via social media that their policies had not changed, WKMG reports. • Leon County schools stated their mask rule will remain through June 10, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Other coronavirus concerns

Celebrating seniors. The Citrus County school district announced plans to have traditional graduation ceremonies, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

Vaccinations keep coming. The FDA signaled its imminent approval of the Pfizer vaccine for 12-15 year olds, Education Week reports.

More colleges and universities are requiring the shot to attend in person. The list nationally has grown to 200, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Florida Virtual School enrollment soared during the pandemic. It’s unclear whether that trend will continue next fall, Spectrum 13 reports.

Please come back. The Palm Beach County school district is paying employees extra to spend weekends calling families whose children did not return to campus this year, and encouraging them to return, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Financial matters

How bad are Hillsborough County’s finances? National analysts have warned about the situation for months. Help could be on the way. The district’s chief finance officer said a $100 million infusion of federal aid should arrive this week.

Sue you. An Orange County family has sued the school district to recoup legal fees they encountered after the district sued them twice and lost, WFTV reports.

Parents and students at an Indian River County high school want to keep their welding program. District officials say it’s not cost effective to keep the program at two schools because of low demand, TC Palm reports.

Tallahassee action

The Legislature’s budget includes several local education projects. Questions swirl whether Gov. DeSantis will veto any of them, the Miami Herald reports.

On the governor’s desk ... Gov. DeSantis has until May 18 to sign HB 419 on early learning and HB 7011 on student literacy.

These ones won’t get there. Lawmakers didn’t give final approval to bills changing student Bright Futures scholarships, teacher pensions or union dues, and school board member terms, the News Service of Florida reports.

Hot topics

The Putnam County school district will be closing and consolidating several of its schools. Some in the community worry how the changes will impact the district’s Black students, WUFT reports.

Remember the Escambia County teen accused of rigging her school’s homecoming court election? She’s being charged as an adult, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

A proposal to rename a Brevard County high school after an Hispanic astronaut has come under fire. Opponents contend he did not teach at the school long enough to warrant the honor, Florida Today reports.

He’s keeping the peace. The Palm Beach County school district has a new police chief, WPTV reports.

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

Before you go ... It’s teacher appreciation week. Here’s what some Pinellas County students had to say about how their teachers impact their lives.