Mask mandates, students protest, enrollment numbers and more

Around the state: Some Florida school districts are in violation of a state rule regarding masks, students at a Polk high school held a protest, and the Broward school system is dealing with low enrollment. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools and colleges and universities:

Mask mandate: Orange County school district’s mask mandate will remain in place until the end of October, despite a new state rule that provides parents with “sole discretion” as to whether their children wear face coverings at school. Superintendent Barbara Jenkins and Teresa Jacobs, chair of the Orange County School Board, detailed the decision in a letter sent to Richard Corcoran, education commissioner. They called the mask mandate “lawful” and a reasonable response to the summer surge of COVID-19 cases in the county. Orlando Sentinel.  In Tampa Bay, two school districts are considered in violation of the emergency order by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Hillsborough and Sarasota enacted mask policies in August that require face coverings for all students and staff. Both policies allow for medical exemptions, but individual’s need a signed doctor’s note. WTSP. Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna says he will recommend to members of the school board that they continue to reject Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates in schools. Hanna also said he will modify the district’s COVID mitigation policy, which says that students exposed to the virus won’t have to quarantine, but will have to wear a mask in school for four days. Hanna said there will be “no exceptions.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Broward: The school system in Broward is dealing with low enrollment numbers after schools were closed for an extended period of time due to COVID-19. There are students that can’t be located, officials say, with estimates of a few thousand missing from the system. “We all expected to go back to school this year in a more normal way, and it didn’t happen,” said Andrew Sparr, who leads the state teacher’s union. Sparr said the state’s top districts are struggling and losing students to alternatives that include virtual, private and charter schools. WPLG.

Polk: Kathleen High School students protested on Monday and called for termination of the school principal, Daraford Jones, citing issues ranging from new rules at an upcoming homecoming dance to locked doors to dress code issues. District officials fired a teacher who rallied with the students at the protest, which lasted nearly two hours according to a Facebook video posted by a student. The protest resulted in more than a dozen arrests. Fox 13. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA.

Coronavirus numbers: Hundreds of students, teachers and other employees across the Treasure Coast already have tested positive for the coronavirus since the school year began more than a month ago. Reports in recent weeks show the numbers across the region are declining. TC Palm.

Education push: Democrats are pushing ahead with President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion rebuilding plan and promising historic investments in education from early childhood to college and beyond. The provisions in Biden’s “Build Back Better” proposal would test the nation’s willingness to expand federal programs in far-reaching ways. The Associated Press.

Behavior issues: Schools across the country are seeing an increase in disruptive behaviors ranging from fighting over social media posts or running out of classrooms. The behavior issues are a reflection of the stress of the pandemic that has been placed on children, experts say, changing their schedules, education and social lives. Anxiety and chronic stress triggers a child’s “survival brain.” Chalkbeat.

University and college news: Some faculty at Florida State University say they have no voice on public health issues, and the threat to academic freedom by legislators is demoralizing, according to what a faculty Senate leader recently told trustees. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: Americans want public schools to teach necessary academic knowledge and to prepare students to exercise the responsibilities of citizenship as adults. Americans also want public schools to serve as engines of social mobility. They’ve been getting too little of any of that for decades. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Even if Florida schools can’t make all students wear masks now, parents can buy masks that protect their children, in addition to those around them. Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.