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Broward's school board makes masks optional for high school students

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The school board kept in place a mask mandate for younger children because they are not currently allowed to be vaccinated for COVID.

The Broward County School Board, which had required masks for all students to slow the spread of COVID-19, decided Tuesday to relax its mandate for high school students.

The school board voted 5-3 to keep the district’s mask mandate for elementary and middle school students, while masks will be optional for high school students starting next week.

Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright had recommended that masks be optional for all students as long as the positivity rate remained below 5%. But board members reasoned that only high school students should have the option to go maskless because they are the only ones currently old enough to receive the vaccine.

Broward is one of six districts challenging a state Department of Health rule aimed at preventing student mask mandates. An administrative law judge heard arguments in the case last week and is expected to rule by Nov. 5.

The state Department of Education also has issued financial penalties on the district because of its mask requirements. The state agencies are carrying out rules enacted to enforce an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis that requires parents to decide whether children wear masks.