Despite the science being firm on masks for months, Florida school districts are still fighting the state government over masking policies.
Meanwhile, patience among parents and community members is wearing thin.
“It is frustrating to have — this week, it’s going to be this policy. And in a couple of weeks, it’s this,” Orange County Classroom Teachers Association President Wendy Doromal said.
So, weeks after COVID case numbers started to decrease, why are the battles continuing?
First, the trenches haven’t moved very far. Parents who are against masking want mandates to go away now that the risk has dropped. Parents who support masking said eliminating masks without a vaccine is a recipe for more quarantining and classroom closures.
There’s a deeper explanation, however: the political part of the mask debate was never about the science behind masks at all.
Parents explained their position during a virtual briefing on Thursday.
“It’s not specifically about to mask or not to mask. It’s about following the law,” Nate Robertson said.
On a grander scale, the debate over masks is a debate on power and control. State officials are attempting to assert their authority over local school boards. Board members are fighting back, saying they have the ultimate say on matters that aren’t explicitly controlled by the state.
Eight districts now face funding losses because of their mandatory mask policies, including Orange and Brevard counties. That includes funding equal to what President Joe Biden’s administration tries to provide to supplement dollars withheld by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration.
Six districts are hoping a judge sides with them and declares the state’s mask policy illegitimate. They said the Department of Health has authority over COVID-19 prevention measures but not parental rights.
These are legal questions that will take more time to work through, as the United States hasn’t experienced a pandemic in a century. Unfortunately, for the weary, that means the headlines will keep coming.