FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The Broward County School Board has voted to amend facial covering policies in the district at an emergency meeting held on New Year’s Eve.
In a 5-3 vote, school board members on Friday agreed to keep the current policy in place of making mask wearing optional but strongly encouraged on campuses across the county.
“The majority of the board would like to implement [a mask mandate] for students and staff,” said Broward School Board Chair Laurie Levinson, “but due to the new [state] law that was passed in November, our hands are tied. There’s no local control, there’s no home rule, and we must follow the law as passed.”
However, adult school visitors and vendors will be required to wear face coverings at all times.
“I do believe that it’s important to protect as many individuals as we can with mask wearing, but that was not the will of the board, so we will move forward as a school system with the way that the vote turned out,” said Levinson.
The board meeting started at around 1:30 p.m. and lasted several hours.
School district officials made an urgent plea Thursday night on social media in order to curb the coronavirus crisis and the rapidly spreading omicron variant.
In the statement, the board said, “Parents, guardians, and caregivers are urged to send their children to school wearing face coverings.”
Miami-Dade Public Schools took it a step further Thursday, stating all adults will be required to wear masks including teachers and staff.
“We are forced to do what we’ve done for a long period of time, which is embrace protective protocols,” said MDPCS Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
School district officials also pleaded with parents to keep their children home if they are showing symptoms or came in contact with someone who tested positive.
The outgoing superintendent announced that all adults will have to wear masks inside of schools and facilities as well as bus staff.
Students are only encouraged to wear masks because of the state law banning mandates — a law the district is discussing taking legal action against.
Carvalho sent a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Education Commission asking for help.
“Considering the escalating nature of this viral crisis we continue to experience, what are the mitigating strategies that the commissioner and/or the governor are recommending?” he said.
The Education Commission is standing by the new law, saying students will not be forced to wear face coverings.
They released a statement that read in part, “The governor has been very clear that Florida public schools need to stay open and continue providing high quality in-person education to all children. Anyone experiencing symptoms of illness should stay home from school until they recover. Schools may not force healthy, asymptomatic students to quarantine. Decisions about masking will continue to be up to parents, per Florida law passed in the November special session.”
In a continued push to get tested for the virus, Miami-Dade County opened several new sites to prevent long lines from forming.
“I love this site. I think it was practical and people, you know, need to get tested,” said one woman.
On New Year’s Eve, the sites with adjusted holiday hours include the South-Dade Government Center and Tropical Park. Both closed at 7 p.m. Zoo Miami shut down at 5 p.m.
On New Year’s Day, Tropical Park, the South-Dade Government Center and Miami-Dade College North will reopen from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Port Miami Terminal J site was open for COVID testing between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.
In Broward, none of their county sites were open on Friday and will remain closed on Saturday.
Additional sites are scheduled to open starting in the new year.
Broward County Public Schools’ new mask policy for visitors and vendors goes into effect when classes resume on Monday.
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