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How Tampa Bay Schools Will Respond To DeSantis' COVID Executive Order

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks Tuesday, March 2, 2021, during his State of the State address at the Capitol in Tallahassee.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks Tuesday, March 2, 2021, during his State of the State address at the Capitol in Tallahassee.

School districts across the state can still decide whether face masks will be required following Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order. Some have already made that determination.

On May 3, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law an emergency preparedness billthat allows the governor to override local emergency orders.

Although the law doesn’t take effect until July 1, DeSantis also signed an executive order that banned local regulations immediately.

In the order, DeSantis said "all local COVID-19 restrictions and mandates on individuals and businesses are hereby suspended." In a separate order, he ruled that all remaining local COVID-19 orders will be invalid as of July 1.

He signed the orders days after Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees recommended the end of mask wearing for fully vaccinated people in an COVID-19 advisory, and weeks after Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said masks in schools should be voluntary next year.

This means that private businesses such as grocery stores, bars and restaurants can still require customers to wear face masks on their own property, but local governments can't mandate that they do so.

Hillsborough County noted as such in a news release, saying commissioners "strongly urged individuals and businesses to take responsibility and use good judgment moving forward" while also stressing the importance of residents getting a vaccine.

The order, however, does not affect local school districts. The Florida Department of Education saidthat neither order will “impact any school district’s policies for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.”

With that being the case, local school districts across the greater Tampa Bay region have either announced their plans on mask mandates for the 2021-22 school year — or will do so in the near future.

Here's a breakdown:

The county's mask mandate will remain intact until the end of the school year on June 9, but will be rescinded after that, barring an uptick in cases. It will continue to monitor cases and is encouraging the use of masks for its Summer Bridge programs, but it will not be required "because of the trending medical data and the decreased number of students in each school during the summer." [More]

The Hillsborough County School Board is expected to make a determination during its meeting on May 18.

On May 10, the county announced it will no longer require face masks after May 28, the last day of school for teachers. They will be optional after that date, including graduations and summer school, which begins June 7.

The Sarasota County School Board will sunset its mandatory face-mask policy on June 30 unless extended or amended prior to that date. [More]

The Bradenton Herald reports the Manatee County School Board will vote whether to rescind its face-mask mandate on May 25. It could decide to make face masks optional starting June 1.

Face coverings will be required until the end of the school year. According to a news release, the school board "will continue to have discussions over the summer about our safety protocols for the upcoming school year. Our face covering policy will certainly be among those measures under review." [More]

According to a news release, the county's face-mask mandate will expire June 30. School board members say they will "keep the existing policy in place and revisit it in June." [More]

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Carl Lisciandrello is digital news editor of WUSF Public Media.