Last 3 Florida school districts drop student mask mandates

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The last three school districts in Florida that required at least some students to wear masks are dropping their mandates for student facial coverings.

Starting Friday, grade school students in Miami-Dade schools can opt out of wearing a mask if they have their parents’ permission. Masks already had been optional for high school and some middle school students.

In neighboring Broward County, all students can go without masks starting the week after next. No opt-out form from parents is required, though the school district is strongly encouraging students to wear facial coverings, according to the Miami Herald. Masks already were optional for high school and technical college students.

In Alachua County, home to the University of Florida, masks will be optional provided parents have given their consent starting in early January when students return from winter break, The Gainesville Sun reported.

The three school districts were among eight Florida districts that had implemented mask mandates in defiance of the administration of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. The state’s health department imposed a rule ordering districts to allow the parents the choice of whether their children wear masks.

The fight between the districts and the state resulted in docked school board salaries, withholding of district funding and had drawn the attention of federal education officials. A judge ruled last week that DeSantis was within his authority to allow parents to opt out of mask mandates.

Separately, the Archdiocese of Miami on Thursday said it would ease mask rules at its elementary schools in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties. Starting Monday, students will be allowed to opt out of wearing masks if they are fully vaccinated. Masks have been optional for fully vaccinated students and teachers in high schools since the beginning of the academic year.

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