Florida Again Pressures Broward Schools to Comply With State's COVID Protocols

State wants Broward to give parents opt-out for mask mandate in schools

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Florida's education commissioner is once again threatening to withhold funding from Broward County Public Schools officials who do not comply with the state's COVID policies regarding school mask mandates.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent a letter Thursday to Broward Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright and Broward School Board Chair Dr. Rosalind Osgood requesting documentation by 5 p.m. Friday showing that the district is complying with the mask policy.

"As I have done before, if you fail to document full compliance, I intend to recommend to the State Board of Education that the Department of Education withhold funds in an amount equal to the salaries for all members of the School Board, as well as other sanctions authorized by law, for the period during which the district has been out of compliance," Corcoran wrote.

Corcoran and Gov. Ron DeSantis began cutting salaries paid to school board members in Florida who voted to require masks for students without offering parents a way to opt-out of the mandate.

In his letter, Corcoran said Florida's Department of Health has "observed no meaningful difference in the number of COVID-19 cases in school-aged children in counties where school districts have imposed mask mandates."

About a dozen school boards in Florida, representing more than half the state's students, have voted to defy the state ban on mask mandates despite the DeSantis decision to withhold some of their funding.

In response, President Joe Biden's administration announced a new program to give cash to districts that defy Florida's order.

Alachua County became Florida's first district to receive federal funds this week, receiving about $148,000. The pay reductions so far for four school board members who voted for the mask mandate amounted to $27,000, Alachua's school superintendent said.

Corcoran's letter also advises Broward school officials of an emergency order signed this week by Florida's new surgeon general that lets parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they are asymptomatic after being exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The guidelines signed by Dr. Joseph Ladapo eliminated previous mandates requiring students to quarantine for at least four days off campus if they've been exposed. Under the new guidelines, students who have been exposed can continue going to campus, “without restrictions or disparate treatment," provided they are asymptomatic. They can also quarantine, but no longer than seven days, provided they do not get sick.

The CDC recommends that a student should quarantine for 14 days if they are unvaccinated. They can shorten the quarantine to seven days by testing negative, according to the CDC.

NBC 6 and AP
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