MIAMI (WSVN) - The Miami-Dade County Public School Board has officially voted to implement a mask mandate for the upcoming school year.

School board members voted 7-1 on Wednesday in favor of a mask mandate with an option to opt-out for medical reasons.

The decision came after hours of public comment from parents.

“The parents in favor of the mask mandate are the majority on this matter,” said a parent.

“Reconsider the fact that these are our children, not yours,” said another parent.

Board members voted 7-1 to enforce the mask mandate for the upcoming school year except for children who are granted a medical exemption.

Lubby Navarro was the sole member to vote against the mandate.

“I have a right to choose how I send my child to school, and I respect that,” she said.

Outside the Miami-Dade School Board’s administration building, the heated debate brought out supporters for and against masks.

Opponents of the mask mandate chanted, “Unmask our kids! Unmask our kids!”

With Wednesday’s vote, board members essentially backed up the decision made by Superintendent Alberto Carvalho after consulting a panel of medical and health experts.

“Over the last week, I’ve spoken with family members of a child of 13 years old who died, with spouses of teachers who perished as a result of this pandemic,” Carvalho said. “I don’t know what the threshold for pain in this community is for those who believe the impact or the probability of a child who contracted COVID who developed symptoms and has to go to the hospital, but for me, one single child is enough of a reason.”

United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats issued a statement that reads in part, “We are excited about welcoming our students back into our classrooms while trying our best to keep them safe and helping them thrive through.”

The move flies in the face of an executive order issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that forbids schools from implementing mask mandates.

“Forcing young kids to wear masks all day, these kindergarteners, having the government to force that, that’s not defying me, that’s defying the State of Florida’s laws and the Parents’ Bill of Rights that was enacted just this past legislative session that I signed into law,” he said. “That was the Legislature of Florida that said parents are the ones that have ultimate responsibility for health, education and welfare.”

Catholic schools in both Dade and Broward bustled with students in masks for the first day of school Wednesday.

Also in Broward, public school students filled classrooms for the first day of school.

Most of them were thrilled to be back and fine with masks, a decision the interim superintendent for Broward County Public Schools stands by even as the governor threatens to withhold funds or remove school board members.

“We believe we are in compliance, so whatever we find it is going to be, we will go ahead and respond accordingly,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright.

The first day of school for M-DCPS is Monday.

Over in Palm Beach County, the school board also made the decision late Wednesday night to defy the governor’s order.

The specifics of the punishment for the school districts defying the governor’s order are expected to be released later on Thursday.

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