MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Miami-Dade County Public Schools' superintendent Alberto Carvalho is not backing down from Gov. Ron DeSantis' threat to withhold salaries from school board members who dare to defy his mask ban.
In a statement released to CBSMiami, the head of the fourth largest school district said on Monday he would follow a "process" in consultation with public-health experts to decide whether students should wear masks.
"At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck, a small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact to the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees," Carvalho said.
His comments came after Gov. DeSantis' office said the state's Board of Education could move to withhold the superintendent's or school board members' salaries if they defy his Executive Order prohibiting mask mandates.
School districts in Duval County in Jacksonville, Leon County in Tallahassee, and Alachua County in Gainesville, have all challenged the governor's order, citing the rise in COVID-19 related hospitalizations fueled by the delta variant. In a statement, the Leon County school district says it will exempt students who have a note from a physician or a psychologist, but it doesn't give parents the authority to opt out, as DeSantis wanted.
Classes resume Wednesday in Tallahassee.
In South Florida, districts are still undecided on their mask directives.
The Broward County School Board had voted to require masks after hours of contentious debate that included a screaming match from angry anti-mask parents who set fire to masks and held picket signs outside. The board reversed course over fear of losing funding, then later said they are "waiting for guidance" in light of the governor's orders. There is a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools says it will decide next week about what it will do for the upcoming school year. Miami-Dade Public School students return to class on August 23, five days later than Broward.
On Monday, more than 13,600 people in Florida were hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and more than 2,800 of them required intensive care.
State Sen. Lauren Book sent a letter to the 67 superintendents asking them to implement mask rules due to the rise in cases and hospitalizations.
"We understand that public schools, school districts, and school boards are facing unprecedented pressure to bow to the wishes of a Governor and administration adamantly opposed to any measure that might be perceived as counter to future political ambitions," Book wrote. "But we believe in and support local rule."
On Friday, Florida's Board of Education approved an emergency rule granting private school vouchers for children who feel they are being harassed by a district's COVID-19 safety policies, including mask requirements. Traditionally, vouchers have been awarded to children who are being bullied.
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