Broward County Public Schools students will be wearing masks when school starts in August.
Today, the school board discussed the issue all afternoon before voting unanimously, just before six o’clock, to make masks mandatory for students and faculty.
“There is no way in good conscious that I could bring anybody back into a school environment, on the bus, the cafeteria, and not have a mask mandate,” Dr. Rosalind Osgood, the school board chair said.
Osgood and other board members cited the recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics as factors which led them to vote for the mask mandate. Each of those organizations is recommending all students mask up in the classroom.
Board members also cited the recent Covid-19 surge, fueled by the Delta variant in the unvaccinated community, as factors which they say, forced their hand.
“Approximately 21% of Broward County children ages 12-19 are vaccinated," board member Lori Alhadeff, who urged parents to get their kids vaccinated said. "I honestly was shocked to hear this number because I thought the vaccination rate would be much higher.”
Other board members mentioned the fact that classrooms will be full this year, with no room for the social distancing, that schools were able to provide last year.
In making their decision, the board angered the small group of anti-mask protesters who demonstrated outside the school district headquarters today.
“I just want my kids to have a childhood just like I did, where she’s not being taught to be scared of the world she lives in, not being taught that she has to stay away from other kids, has to be socially distanced,” Elon Gerberg, one of the anti-mask protesters who has a daughter entering kindergarten this year said.
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County Public Schools had already decided to make masks optional, but that decision came when positivity rates were low and hospitals had very few Covid patients.
“We are in a different position today, where critical elements have unfortunately trended in the wrong direction,” Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho said today. “We don’t want to be rushed into making this decision, time is still on our side.”
Carvalho said there’s still time for his district to consult with medical experts on the best course to take.
Osgood said that in Broward, they will continually monitor the pandemic conditions to see if the mask mandate can safely be made optional at any time during the school year.