Florida's School Mask Drama Heats Up

Miami-Dade and Hillsborough school districts defy governor's ban
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2021 2:24 PM CDT
Updated Aug 19, 2021 7:07 AM CDT
After a Week, 8K Students in Florida District Are Quarantined
Crossing guard Kim Williams greets students while she works near Bay Point Middle School for the first day of school for Pinellas County students, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021 in St. Petersburg.   (Martha Asencio-Rhine/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Two of Florida's biggest school districts have decided to join others that have defied Gov. Ron DeSantis and brought in mask mandates. In the Tampa-area Hillsborough County district, which has around 213,000 students, some 8,400 students and more than 300 teachers are in isolation after testing positive or in quarantine after being exposed to a COVID patient just a week into the school year, ABC reports. DeSantis' policy allows parents to opt out of mask requirements, and officials say the parents of around 28,000 children in the county have done so, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The board held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss possible moves and decided to implement stricter mask rules, Politico reports. According to the county dashboard, there have been 2,058 reported COVID cases among students and staff.

In the Miami district—the largest in the state and fourth-largest in the nation, with around 334,000 students—the board also met Wednesday and decided to implement a recommendation that students be required to wear masks when they return next week. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said a 13-year-old student and four employees have died from COVID in recent weeks, the AP reports. DeSantis issued an order last month for parents to have the final say over whether students wear masks, saying students shouldn't be "muzzled." The Florida Board of Education said Tuesday that the Broward and Alachua school districts, which require all students without medical exemptions to wear masks, could face penalties including the withholding of funds. After the ruling, the Alachua County School Board voted Tuesday night to extend the mandate for another two months. (More Florida stories.)

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