Florida school board to require masks despite ban

A Florida school board voted overwhelmingly to require students to wear masks despite the state’s ban on mask mandates as the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread across the country.

The Broward County School Board voted 8 to 1 on Tuesday in favor of the requirement, and approved filing legal action to challenge Florida’s ban, CBS Miami reported. School board chairwoman Dr. Rosalind Osgood said she did not want to put children’s lives at risk. 

Students and staff with legitimate reasons will be able opt out of the mandate. 

The board had voted unanimously two weeks ago to implement a mask mandate, but reversed its decision when Republican Governor Ron DeSantis threatened to pull funding from districts with such requirements. 

DeSantis later said the Florida Board of Education could withhold the paychecks of school board members and superintendents who enforce mask mandates after he signed an executive order in July barring districts from requiring masks. DeSantis has said it should be up to parents whether their children wear masks during in-person learning. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended all K-12 students wear masks for in-person learning. 

DeSantis is also facing pushback from Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ superintendent. In a statement to CBS Miami, Alberto Carvalho, the head of the state’s fourth-largest school district, said he would prioritize students’ safety over his salary. 

“At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck, a small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact to the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees,” Carvalho said. 

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is set to decide next week on a mask mandate for the upcoming school year. 

School districts in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Gainesville have also challenged the governor’s order, citing rising hospitalizations due to COVID-19. 

A Leon County circuit judge set a hearing for Friday in a lawsuit filed by parents in half a dozen counties that challenges DeSantis’ order, according to CBS Miami

Amid the debate over masks, Florida is experiencing its worst COVID outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic. Nearly 14,000 people were hospitalized with COVID in the state as of Monday, according to federal data.