Duval, 8 other Florida school districts face fines

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TALLAHASSEE – The number of Florida school districts facing sanctions at Thursday’s State Board of Education meeting over mask policies is now down to nine.

Two districts, Sarasota and Hillsborough, waited until the 11th hour before changing policies to allow parents to opt their children out of mask requirements.

Hillsborough County School Board members got an earful from parents Tuesday.

“We the people expect you to uphold the highest standards when it comes to parental rights,” said parent Elizabeth Thomas.

The Board voted 6-1 to stop requiring a medical certificate and instead allow parents to opt-out with an online form. The move is expected to stop the State Board from withholding thousands of dollars in school board salaries.

“So we have seen like a 93% decrease in the positive cases,” said Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis.

Davis said it’s money the district could not lose.

“There are financial penalties that come with making decisions, and where we are as an organization, we just don’t have the ability to lose any dollar and cent,” said Davis.

Four districts have now backed down on their mask mandates. Lee and Volusia backed down before the first fines were levied. But there are still nine counties facing the loss of board salaries: Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Indian River, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach counties.

Alachua and Broward also stand to lose over a half-million dollars the Biden Administration sent to offset money lost in previous sanctions.

Alachua Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon argued the state’s energy could be better spent.

“We have significant needs in our school system that have been in the present situation with COVID as well as decades prior to. I would appreciate a focus on educating our children and less on punishing school districts,” said Simon.

The State Board meets Thursday at 1 p.m. by phone. The meeting is being streamed on TheFloridaChannel.org.

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