DeSantis on school reopenings: ‘Have a normal school year’

Governor says students do not need to be wearing masks in school this fall

(AP Photo/Phil Sears) (Phil Sears, Copyright 2021 the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made it clear Tuesday what he wants to see when the new school year begins this fall.

During a visit to Christ the King Catholic School in Jacksonville, the governor was asked if his administration has had any discussions about instructions to school districts about COVID-19 protocols.

“Our direction is fairly simple: have a normal school year,” DeSantis told a reporter, a response that was met with applause by those attending his bill-signing ceremony at the catholic school.

The governor, who’s been critical of federal guidelines for school reopening plans, last week signed an executive order that suspended all COVID-19 emergency orders issued by local governments.

Last week’s order only applies to emergency ordinances imposed by municipal or county governments. It does not affect mask and social distancing requirements set by individual school districts.

“These kids do not need to be wearing masks, okay? I’m sorry, they don’t,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “We need to be able to let them be kids and let them act normally and that’s what should be the case in the fall (and) throughout the school year.”

The governor did not say whether the Florida Department of Education would limit districts’ abilities to enforce mask mandates, but some lawmakers are calling on his administration to do so.

DeSantis left the room before News4Jax could ask whether there would be a ban on mask mandates in schools.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which led the charge on public health guidelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, recommends children wear masks in school when social distancing isn’t an option.

Masks are still required in schools in Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties. But they are optional for students in Baker, Bradford, Columbia and Union counties.