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Broward School Board Backtracks On Mask Mandate Decision, Will Meet Aug. 10 To Discuss

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Broward County Public School District, the second-largest school district in the state, has not finalized its decision on mask mandates after all.

Last week, the 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.

Then, 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.

So, Broward Schools officially withdrew its mask mandate on Monday, saying it would comply with the Governor's Executive Order.

But Tuesday night, a new District statement said, "the District is awaiting further guidance before rendering a decision on the mask mandate for the upcoming school year. At this time, the District's face covering policy, which requires the use of masks in District schools and facilities, remains in place. The School Board will discuss next steps during a Special School Board Meeting on Tuesday, August 10, Safety remains our highest priority."

The statement also reads, "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 advocate for all eligible students and staff to receive vaccines and will also work to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines – including frequent cleaning and disinfecting of our schools, hand washing, and staying home when sick. The District is continuing to collaborate with our local health organizations to monitor trends in the spread of COVID-19 and variants."

Gov. DeSantis says the coronavirus 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.

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