TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Board of Education will hold an emergency meeting Friday to consider a proposal that would let students change schools to avoid public health mandates in districts.
Language in the BOE announcement said the new rule would provide “parents with a mechanism to transfer a child to a private school or another school district under a Hope Scholarship when a school district’s COVID-19 health protocols, including masking, pose a health or educational danger to their child.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed their recommendation weeks ago to say kids under 12 should wear masks in school to start the year. The CDC had previously backed away from mask requirements, but changed the recommendation as the delta variant of COVID-19 began to uncontrollably spread across the nation, especially in the state of Florida.
Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that took away the authority of local school boards to implement mask mandates on school grounds. Governor DeSantis vowed to continue to fight mask requirements for schools and threatened to take funding away from schools that enforce mask mandates to protect students who are too young to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this point, currently 12-years-old.
The Board of Education won’t consider masking, saying that decision will be addressed by the Department of Health. However, it said the possibility of students being required to wear masks was an emergency.
“The agency finds that the potential for student learning loss and educational disruption with schools starting next week, creates an immediate danger to the public health, safety, and welfare of students and requires emergency action,” the Board said in its announcement of the meeting.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said that for children over 2, masks do not interfere with a child’s lung development, don’t trap carbon dioxide that we breathe out, do not make it harder for children to breathe, and do not make the immune system weaker. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that schools may choose to make mask use universal if:
- Children are younger than 12 and are not yet eligible for the vaccine
- The number of COVID-19 cases is increasing or high in the school or your community
- The number of cases caused by a variant of concern is increasing or high in the school or community
- The school or child care program is not able to monitor the vaccine status of children, teachers, or staff
- The school or child care program cannot enforce mask policies that are not universal
- The number of students or people in your community who are vaccinated is low