VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – UPDATE: The Volusia County School Board has canceled an emergency meeting scheduled for Thursday to allow time to wait for an appeals court decision about Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates in schools.
The board was set to discuss its new mask policy that requires students to wear face coverings on campus but can opt out with a doctor’s note. However, after the DeSantis administration filed an emergency motion asking an appeals court to reinstate a stay allowing the state to continue fining districts with mask mandates, school officials canceled the meeting.
“The September 9 emergency meeting of the Volusia County School Board to discuss the Mandatory Face Covering Policy 503 has been canceled, as the school district awaits a court ruling from the 1st District Court of Appeal,” a statement read.
The 41-page motion filed by the state seeks to put on hold a Sept. 2 ruling by Circuit Judge John Cooper that said DeSantis overstepped his constitutional authority in an executive order aimed at preventing districts from requiring students to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Cooper on Wednesday went further by lifting an automatic stay that had been triggered when the DeSantis administration appealed the Sept. 2 ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeal. The motion filed Wednesday night requested that the Tallahassee-based appeals court reimpose the stay while the underlying battle about the Sept. 2 ruling moves forward.
The appeals court gave a group of parents who filed the lawsuit until 8 p.m. Thursday to file a response to the motion about reinstating the stay.
Volusia County’s mask policy continues until Oct. 15 and will be revisited at another school board meeting.
Volusia County School Board members will discuss its recently passed mandatory face-covering policy this Thursday less about a week after the board voted on a temporary mandate requiring masks on campuses.
During a sometimes heated debate on Sept. 1, the board voted 3-2 passing a new policy that goes into effect Sept. 7. The mandate requires Kindergarten through 12th-grade students to wear masks until Oct. 15 but students can opt-out with a note from a doctor.
On Saturday, three days before the policy would begin the school district scheduled an emergency school board meeting for Sept. 9. The announcement did not disclose what prompted the emergency meeting.
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The emergency meeting will take place Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. at the DeLand Administrative Complex (200 North Clara Ave.). The meeting will be open to the public and anyone can also watch it online at vcsedu.org.
The mask discussion comes as school districts around the state have been implementing mandatory mask mandates that defy Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on requiring masks for students without the option to opt-out with a parental note. A judge ruled last week that his executive order overstepped his authority but the state appealed that ruling putting school districts back in legal limbo and then again, a judge ruled against DeSantis.
At least two school districts, Alachua and Broward, have faced financial consequences as a result of mask mandates when the state department of education withheld its school board salaries. Orange County has also received a warning from Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran over its mask mandate.
On Tuesday, Volusia County Superintendent Scott Fritz sent a letter to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran in response to a letter from Sept. 3 saying the state is investigating Volusia County’s school mask policy. Corcoran said the school district was violating the state’s policy but Fritz said the rule was in compliance.
Brevard County passed a face mask policy last week requiring a doctor’s note to opt-out and neighboring Seminole and Lake counties had school board meetings this past week to consider mandates as well but neither county has made a final decision.