MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says the county’s classroom mask mandate will remain in effect as the courts sort out the issue.
That despite an appeals court on Friday saying that the state can continue to punish districts that have mask requirements that go against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ orders for the time being.
It is an ongoing appeal — after a circuit court judge in Tallahassee said the school districts were within their rights to have mask mandates — and Carvalho says Miami-Dade has no intentions of changing the stance on masks locally.
“It’s not a political ploy it’s a necessity considering the environmental and the health conditions in our community currently,” Carvalho said Monday morning, noting that he wasn’t surprised by an appeals court reinstating a stay on Friday.
The state’s department of education can continue punishing school districts for mask mandates, at least until the appeals court comes to a final decision as the case moves forward.
Carvalho says 13 school districts across the state, representing more than one million students, are not wrong by requiring the wearing of masks.
Miami-Dade is among a number of school districts suing the state department of health. In part, the suit challenges the department’s legal authority in issuing the emergency ruling stemming from the governor’s efforts to prevent schools from requiring masks.
“An order that bypasses certain specific steps and an order that is contrary to the expert advice of local public health and medical experts,” Carvalho said.
Dr. Marc Mestre, chief medical officer at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, says admissions are down. On Monday they had eight pediatric COVID-19 patients at the hospital. Two of them are on ventilators.
It’s significantly less than what they saw in early-to-mid August.
“In terms of school districts that tend to have mask mandates or mask-wearing, [they] tend to have lower rates of infections within the schools,” Mestre said.
A vaccine for children ages 5-11 could be authorized by the end of October, which could help further.
In Broward County, which also is keeping its mask mandate, school leaders say they’re doing their best to keep students and staff safe and healthy. And they claim the state isn’t helping.
The school district is calling for the state to release federal funding for school districts across Florida that they say the state refuses to deliver, including hundreds of millions of dollars meant for Broward.
“We don’t have a process to ask for these funds,” said Vickie Cartwight, Broward’s interim superintendent. “We’re talking about well over half a billion dollars.”
The U.S. Department of Education has launched a civil rights investigation into Florida’s school masking policies.