More Florida school districts enact mask mandates amid COVID-19 surge

click to enlarge Miami-Dade and Hillsborough school districts both enacted strict mask mandates. - Adobe
Miami-Dade and Hillsborough school districts both enacted strict mask mandates.

The Miami-Dade County school district on Wednesday joined Alachua and Broward counties in mandating students wear masks in schools, with exceptions only for medical reasons. Students in the Miami-Dade district, which is the fourth-largest in the country with 334,000 students, are set to begin the school year on Monday.

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho addressed the State Board of Education on Wednesday before the Miami-Dade school board voted to approve a mask requirement amid a spike in COVID-19 cases across Florida.

“Recognizing that a multi-tiered approach to ensure the health and well-being of our students and those going to schools every single day is the least we can do. I will do all that I can to do that,” Carvalho told the state board.

Carvalho’s comments came after the state board on Tuesday announced it will target local school officials who don’t comply with a Department of Health rule that says, in part, that local school mask mandates must allow parents to opt out. State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran warned in a letter to school leaders last week that requiring doctors’ notes for exceptions is “inconsistent” with the health department’s rule.

The state board on Tuesday voted to direct Corcoran to “investigate” the actions of Alachua and Broward school officials. The board could pursue financial and other penalties against school officials who don’t comply, even floating the idea of removing them from office. Carvalho signaled to the state board Wednesday that he will accept whatever punishment comes from the state rather than back down from requiring masks.

“The conditions before me today, other than the impact to health, do not cause fear in me. For the consequences associated with doing the right thing, whatever that right thing is, I will wear that proudly as a badge of honor,” Carvalho said.

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