Brevard, Orange school boards reply to state over mask mandate rules

Both districts provided school board salaries to state Board of Education

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Two Central Florida school boards submitted letters Thursday responding to the state’s 48-hour notice to comply with mask requirements.

The school boards from Brevard and Orange counties provided the state Board of Education with information on the salaries of their board members.

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The two school boards said they received letters from the state Tuesday afternoon. Last week, the state board found eight school districts, including Brevard and Orange counties, were not in compliance with the mask requirements set forth by the state that prioritizes parents’ decisions to opt out their child from mask mandates.

The Florida Department of Health issued a revised rule last month that continues to require that parents be able to opt students out of school-mask requirements, including a change that takes aim at some school districts that only allow opt-outs for documented medical reasons. That change says opting out of mask requirements is “at the parent or legal guardian’s sole discretion.”

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran recommended that if the school boards do not comply once they are given the 48-hour notice, then they would be penalized financially in an amount equal to the monthly salaries of board members.

Brevard’s letter to the state Thursday said “any decision which affects substantial interests are required to proceed through due process proceedings unless waived by all parties” and “the State Board of Education meeting failed to satisfy the requirements for a finding against substantial interests of the School Board and District.”

Orange County Public Schools has a universal mask mandate in place through October. Brevard Public Schools has a policy in place that would give parents the choice to opt-out their children from the mandate if community spread dips to 50 cases per 100,000.

“We’re going to continue to move forward with what we think is best for our children and work with our parents as we transition to the next phase,” Orange County Public Schools spokesperson Scott Howat said.

Howat said the district only had 200 COVID-19 cases over the last week.

“It’s dropping significantly and we have about 12 days or left in the 60-day window for the mask requirement,” Howat said.

Howat said there are all sorts of moving parts when it comes to legal action.

“I think what we‘re doing is trying to make sure we’re putting forward what we believe is in line with us following the law,” Howat said.

The documents from both school boards can be read below.

Read the letter and document providing salary information from the Brevard County School Board below:

Read the Orange County School Board’s letter to the state below:

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.