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DeSantis order suspending local COVID rules does not apply to schools, state says

Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to suspend local COVID-19 emergency orders has no impact on Florida’s school districts nor the rules they enacted this school year because of the coronavirus pandemic, state officials said.

The governor’s order, which he announced Monday morning but didn’t release until after 5 p.m., prompted lots of questions, including whether it meant the end to school rules requiring masks on campus.

It does not, the Florida Department of Education said in an emailed statement on Monday night.

The governor’s order applies only to city and county governments “and does NOT impact school districts and individual schools,” read the department’s message sent about 8:30 p.m. The governor’s order also does not “impact any school district’s policies for the remainder of 2020-21 school year,” it said.

A few hours earlier, Orange County Public Schools had sent a message to parents Monday that acknowledged the new order had prompted lots of questions. It said administrators would review DeSantis’ new mandate but, “As of today, no changes have been made to our safety protocols.”

When the district posted that message on Facebook, some parents thanked them for sticking to the safety rules, including mandated face masks, that have been in place all year. Others said they viewed DeSantis’ decision as a reason to get rid of masks, the most visible and controversial of the rules enacted this academic year.

Orange and other Central Florida school districts had said previously they planned to keep face mask rules in place through the end of the school year.

 

“I can’t wait to send my son to school tomorrow without a mask and a copy of DeSantis’ Executive Order,” one mother wrote on the OCPS page.

But others were pleased there would be no change in the final weeks of the school year.

“Thank you for following medical professionals and not a politician when it comes to our children, teachers and school staff,” wrote one parent.

The Orange school district, in a follow-up message Tuesday morning, said that based on the guidance from the education department, it would keep all its current rules in place through the end of the academic year and for summer school.

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