“We were handcuffed” by the DeSantis mask order
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, FL –St. Johns County School Board President Patrick Canan expressed frustration at the end of a sometimes grueling board meeting on Tuesday that included hours of public commentary on the requirement to wear face masks. ‘school.
Although the issue of masks is not on the agenda and no action has been taken, Canan said that may not have been the case had it not been for an executive order issued by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that threatened to withhold funding if school districts issued mask warrants for students as the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida continues to skyrocket.
Instead, when the school year begins on August 16, masks in St. Johns County schools will be optional and highly recommended.
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“In my opinion, this is a decision that should be made at the local level because we have a local contribution, we have our own hospitals, we know our hospital levels, we have a health service, but instead, we have been restricted by the state government to do what we could not do otherwise, ”Canan said. “Those of you who disagree with the governor, your beef is in Tallahassee because we have been handcuffed.”
The school board heard from both sides of the mask issue on Tuesday.
Parents and doctors have expressed belief that the district has an obligation to protect children by issuing a mask warrant as the number of COVID-19 cases hits record highs. Then there were those on the other side who questioned the effectiveness of the masks and said any warrant would hamper their right to choose what is good for their children.
DeSantis said masks can have negative effects on student development.
Some school districts in the state, such as Duval County, have found a way around the order by requiring masks but offering parents the option of opting out. Others outright defied the order and issued warrants.
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With DeSantis’ approval, the Florida Board of Education last week approved a response in the form of an emergency rule that will make private education vouchers available to parents who claim the requirements wearing a mask from a public school district amounts to harassment of their children.
St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson and Canan concluded Tuesday that the best thing for the district to do is comply with the emergency order and focus on other strategies to mitigate the damage. coronaviruses which are approved as frequent cleaning and quarantines for students who may have been exposed to the virus.
“Despite all the differences of opinion on what is good and what is not, I think we should follow the executive decree because I don’t think we have a choice,” Canan said, adding that the decree restricted the district’s ability to listen to the Centers. for disease control and prevention. “This is who this state elected as governor, and I must respect his decision, respect his opinion.”
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Board member Beverly Slough said the district was only following the advice of her lawyer, but added that she supported DeSantis’ order.
“We in Florida, in the United States, we love our independence, we love making our own decisions and especially when it comes to our children so, I think we have gone in the right direction in allowing parents the choice to hide or to unmask. their children, ”Slough said. “Come to school, go virtual whatever choice works best for the family concerned.”
Forson added that he would continue to monitor the number of cases in the county and adjust plans if necessary.
As of last week, St. Johns County had 1,740 new cases with a positive rate of over 24%.
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