SARASOTA, Fla. — A sixth Florida school district enacted a 90-day mask mandate for students, teachers and staff on Friday during a special board meeting.
The Sarasota County School Board passed the mandate by a 3-2 vote, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. Sarasota, located about 50 miles south of Tampa, joined the Miami-Dade, Broward, Alachua, Hillsborough and Palm Beach school districts in enacting mandatory face coverings on campus, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.
On Friday, Florida’s state Board of Education alerted Broward and Alachua school board members that funding equal to their salaries would be withdrawn if they do not change their stance within 48 hours, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
The move came after those counties defied Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order, which forbade school districts from requiring masks without allowing parents the choice to opt-out, the Miami Herald reported.
DeSantis signed the order on July 30.
“It is important to remember that this issue is about ensuring local school board members, elected politicians, follow the law,” Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a statement Friday. “We cannot have government officials pick and choose what laws they want to follow. This is simply unacceptable behavior.”
DeSantis, speaking at a news conference on Thursday in Hillsborough County, called that school board’s Wednesday vote to enforce a mask mandate a political ploy.
“I think it’s more political,” DeSantis told reporters. “I think it’s to get on CNN and stuff for some of these local controlled politicians, but I think that is not something that is justified.”
Under the new policy in Sarasota, all students and staff will be required to wear masks until Sarasota County’s COVID-19 positivity rate falls below 8%, the Herald-Tribune reported. The 90-day policy will automatically be suspended if the rate falls below 8% for three days and would be reinstated if it rises above 10% for three consecutive days.
The mandate only offers an opt-out option with a doctor’s note or Individual Education Plan, according to WTVT.
As of Friday, the current positivity rate in Sarasota County is more than 23%, according to WFLA.
The Sarasota board meeting lasted almost five hours, WWSB reported.
Board attorney Patrick Duggan told the school board members that he believed the proposal was inconsistent with state law, the governor’s executive order and the state administrative guidance, the Herald-Tribune reported. He said good-faith arguments could be made in their favor, but told the board that the mask mandate proposal appeared illegal.
Board member Jane Goodwin told the newspaper before the meeting that the policy could fall under legal scrutiny.
“It goes to court for review. That review is taking place right now (and) in Tallahassee on Monday,” Goodwin told the Herald-Tribune. “In the meantime, I have to do what I think is right for our students and staff.”
More coronavirus pandemic coverage:
©2021 Cox Media Group