The Florida Board of Education will meet Tuesday at 4 p.m. to discuss Alachua County Public School’s mask mandate.
The school board unanimously voted Aug. 10 to require masking for at least the first two weeks of school. However, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order on July 30 that stated parents could choose whether their children wore masks to school. The order also threatened to cut funds for school boards that passed mask mandates.
Joining Alachua County, Broward County also violated state orders banning mask mandates, according to a Florida Department of Education meeting notice. Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran will report his findings at the meeting and determine if it’s necessary to “order compliance.”
If school districts don’t comply, the state will withhold transfers of state funds and grants, find districts ineligible for competitive grants, require periodic reporting of violations and create other plans, according to the statute.
“...the failure to follow the Department of Health’s emergency rule for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in school settings creates an immediate danger to the public health, safety, or welfare,” the meeting notice said.
With surging Delta variant cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance Aug. 5 recommending indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote DeSantis and Corcoran a letter Friday urging Florida to follow CDC guidance and promised to back school districts in the hot seat for requiring masks with federal relief dollars.
DeSantis’ press secretary recognized that the state has no control over local employees’ salaries and called on school board members to dock their own salaries.
The crossfire comes during the first week of school, which reported about 75 positive cases and sent 535 students and 78 staff members into quarantine, according to the ACPS COVID-19 dashboard. The positivity rate in Alachua County stands at 14.8% as of Friday.
Parents and residents who wish to tune in to the meeting can stream it on The Florida Channel.