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Broward County school board makes masks optional for high school students

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EMILY MICHOT EMICHOT@MIAMIHERALD.COM
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The Miami Herald
Broward County Schools interim superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright speaks to the media following a meeting of the Broward County School Board Oct. 26, 2021. The board voted to keep the current mask mandate in place for elementary and middle school students but to relax the policy for high school students starting Monday.

The Broward County School Board, which is battling the state over school-mask requirements, decided Tuesday to make masks optional for high school students — but kept in place a mask mandate for younger children amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school district website said that, as of Monday, the use of masks will be “strongly encouraged for students, staff, visitors and vendors” at the county’s high schools and technical colleges but that a “formal opt out process is not required.”

The website said, however, that for elementary schools and middle schools, “current face covering policy requirements mandating masks for students, staff, visitors and vendors remains in effect — unless students have a medical exception.”

COVID-19 vaccinations have been available to children 12 and older but not to younger children. Broward is one of six school districts challenging a Florida Department of Health rule aimed at preventing student mask mandates.

An administrative law judge heard arguments in the case last week and is expected to rule by Nov. 5. The Florida Department of Education also has slapped financial penalties on the Broward district because of its mask requirements.

The Department of Health and Department of Education, at least in part, are carrying out a July 30 executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis that sought to prevent mask requirements. DeSantis contends parents should be able to decide whether children wear masks.