'Literally losing our workforce': Florida schools defy DeSantis' anti-mask order

Christine O'Riley is a school teacher who is also the mother of a child below 12 years old. She holds her protest umbrella in front of the school board building, ahead of Tuesday's meeting to discuss the issue of masking. Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP 'Literally Losing Our Workforce': Florida schools resist DeSantis anti-mask orderTALLAHASSEE, Florida school districts are trying to resist Gov. Ron DeSantis order preventing schools from applying mask requirements for children sets off a fight against the Republican governor, who has resist any Covid-related mandates.Alachua County school board members voted late Tuesday night to require that all students wear masks for the first two weeks. On Wednesday morning Leon County, which also includes Tallahassee announced that it is seeking to establish a mandatory mask policy for students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grades. Both of these are direct rejections DeSanti's executive order that prohibits schools from enacting student mask requirements.Robert Hyatt, a member of Alachua County's school board, stated that he doesn't think we should be in any sort of match with governor. He was speaking after two custodians were killed by the virus in the past few days. It is not being defiant, according to me. It is being responsive to the circumstances.Even the Broward County Schools District, which had just stated it would comply with DeSantis' order days ago, announced Wednesday it will keep its mask mandate in effect for the foreseeable future.These recent actions show how Florida school districts are dealing with coronavirus cases and DeSanti's rejection of Covid mandates. The governor, who has repeatedly downplayed the threat from the virus, has prohibited cities and schools to put in place Covid requirements such as masks or vaccination passports.The choice is up to the district leaders: To eliminate mask mandates, or lose state funding.Rocky Hanna, Leon County Superintendent, stated that, despite being controversial, I believe it is the right thing to temporarily do until we understand the Delta variant better and its impact on school-aged children.Between July 23 and 29, the state Department of Health reported 10,785 Covid-19-related infections in children aged 12 and under. More than 11,500 hospitalizations were reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida had more than 50,000 new infections and 100 death in a three-day period. Florida is now responsible for approximately one fifth of all new infections in America.This is why school districts all over the state are trying to create new rules that will keep children safe and follow DeSantis' orders. School officials in Duval County voted Tuesday to make students wear masks, with the caveat of parents being able to opt out.Christina Pushaw, spokesperson for DeSantis, stated that state agencies have finalized health and education emergency regulations this week, which allow parents to decide whether or not their children wear masks.She said that school districts should allow parents to make this choice.Other Florida school districts require masks for visitors, teachers, and vendors. Alachua Leon, Broward and Broward were among the first to advocate for masking students in spite of DeSantis' order. DeSantis's Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran demanded that school leaders implement mandatory mask rules. If they don't fight back, it could lead to financial losses for them.Corcoran and his crew will go after our money, Leanetta McNealy, Alachua County school board chair, stated Tuesday. I would rather them go after our money than [funeral homes] where people are being placed.Officials at Alachua see it as a matter if life and death. Carlee Simon, local school superintendent, stated Tuesday that the school district was dealing with 15 positive Covid-19 case. Classes are still days away.Alachuas School Board, which represents approximately 28,000 Gainseville students, will reexamine its districtwide mask requirement for Aug. 17.Simon stated that we are in a position where our workforce is literally being lost.