MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Broward County Public School District, the second-largest school district in the state, is officially withdrawing its mask mandate after Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to withhold funding from districts that require face coverings, rather than enforce the recommendation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Broward County Public Schools intends to comply with the Governor’s latest Executive Order,’’ said the district statement, released Monday afternoon.
“Safety remains our highest priority. The district will advocate for all eligible students and staff to receive vaccines and strongly encourage masks to be worn by everyone in schools,” the statement reads. “The district will also work to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including frequent cleaning and disinfecting of our schools, physical distancing, hand washing, and staying home when sick.”
Last week, the Broward School Board voted unanimously to require students, teachers, and staff, even those who are vaccinated, to wear masks inside schools when classes begin August 18 due to the surge in cases caused by the Delta variant.
However, Florida leads the nation in COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 10,682 listed on the HHS dashboard with 95% of COVID patients unvaccinated.
Gov. DeSantis says the surge is seasonal, caused by people gathering inside to avoid the summer heat and humidity. As a result, he barred local governments and school districts from imposing mandatory mask mandates and vaccine requirements. He said his Executive Order was done “to protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks.”
The order states that if the State Board of Education finds a school district board unwilling or unable to comply, it is able to withhold the transfer of state funds, discretionary grant funds or discretionary lottery funds. The board can also declare a school ineligible for competitive grants if the district doesn’t comply.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools says it will decide next week about what it will do for the upcoming school year. Miami-Dade students return to class on August 23, five days later than Broward.