By Kevin Deutsch
New data show that Broward County Public Schools reports 152 new COVID-19 cases among students and staff during the first week of classes.
Since school began on Aug. 18, coronavirus infections have been confirmed for at least 84 students, and 68 school employees, the school system’s COVID-19 dashboard showed as of Aug. 24.
The data show self-reported coronavirus cases for school employees, as well as confirmed cases for students attending in-person instruction through Aug. 23, according to the dashboard.
Among Parkland schools, Heron Heights Elementary School reported one case; Park Trails Elementary School reported two cases, and Westglades Middle School reported one case.
The data was posted Tuesday, the same day the Broward County School Board sent an official response to state education officials stating it would not relent on its student mask mandate.
The board’s decision defied Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Ensuring Parents’ Freedom to Choose Masks in Schools” executive order, issued July 30, which grants Florida’s Board of Education the power to withhold funding from any district that requires masks for students.
In support of DeSantis’ order, the Florida Board of Education approved a rule requiring mask-opt-outs. It said Broward School Board Members could have their salaries withheld for voting in favor of the mask mandate. Each member of the nine-person board earns a salary of $46,773 per year.
President Joe Biden has said he supports the school board’s mask mandate. His administration is exploring ways to use federal relief funds to cover any payments withheld by the state, officials said.
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran had given the board until Tuesday to add a broad opt-out to its mask mandate, which currently requires a doctor’s note for students who do not wish to wear a mask.
In response to Corcoran, the school board sent the state a letter Tuesday stating that it “disputes that a parent or legal guardian has a fundamental and unlimited right to insist that his or her minor child not be required to wear a face-covering during a pandemic involving a highly contagious virus.”
“If such a fundamental and unlimited right did exist, it would necessarily conflict with the right of a parent or legal guardian of a minor child — especially an immunocompromised child — to attend school in an environment made safer by a requirement that those individuals the child will come in contact with will wear a face-covering, thereby taking a measure that the Department of Health has acknowledged mitigates against the spread of that virus,” the board wrote.
Several legal cases challenging the state’s anti-mask orders are wending their way through the courts.
In addition to enforcing the mask mandate, Broward schools encourage all district teachers and staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine. On August 17, the school board approved a $250 inventive bonus for school employees who get vaccinated.
The Broward Teacher’s Union is hosting a Pfizer vaccine drive-thru at their offices in Tamarac on Saturday, August 28, from 9 a.m. – to 5 p.m.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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