The Broward County School Board has decided to require masks for students and teachers for the beginning of the upcoming school year, amid an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases in the county and throughout the state.
The board voted 8 to 1 to require masks at a meeting Tuesday, where they said parents who want to opt out can do so with a medical waiver.
SCHOOLS AND COVID
Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco praised the school board's decision in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“Wearing masks inside schools regardless of vaccine status is required to deal with the changing realities of virus transmission. It is a necessary precaution until children under 12 can receive a COVID-19 vaccination and more Americans 12 and older get vaccinated," Fusco's statement read.
The decision was made in defiance of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' attempts to block schools from imposing mandates. The Republican governor has insisted that the decision about wearing masks should be made by parents.
DeSantis’ office said Monday that the state’s Board of Education could move to withhold salaries from superintendents or school board members. who impose mask mandates.
The Florida Department of Health issued an emergency rule last week saying districts must allow parents to decide whether their children will wear masks.
On Friday, Florida’s Board of Education approved an emergency rule granting private school vouchers for children who feel they are being harassed by a district’s COVID-19 safety policies, including mask requirements.
Two Florida school districts announced last week that they would follow recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and require masks when they restart classes later this week. Four others have adopted mask policies since then, and more are having discussions this week. But most have clarified that parents can opt out.
Before they voted Tuesday, the Broward School Board members heard from parents who argued for and against mandatory masks.
"I want them to be protected when they go back to school, I don’t want to send them into an unsafe environment and we know that masks will keep kids safe," parent Nancy Fry said.
“If people want to wear masks, it’s absolutely their choice to do that, but as a parent who does not want their kid wearing a mask, we should have a choice as well, it shouldn’t be one-sided," parent Kelly Doyle said.
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