By Gregory Lemos and Rebekah Riess, CNN
The Broward County Public School Board in Florida voted to relax masking protocols in district-area high schools Tuesday.
Masks will no longer be required but are strongly encouraged in high schools starting Monday.
Broward County was one of eight school districts the Florida State Board of Education sanctioned for requiring masks with no opt-out option. The district defied an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis aimed to give parents a choice on whether their children should wear masks in class.
“We know that vaccines are available to those who are 12 and up. We have seen a huge increase in the number of individuals in Broward County who are vaccinated, both adults and students,” School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood said during a press conference after the vote. “It is not an easy decision. There are a lot of different perspectives.”
A mask mandate remains in place for schools with elementary and middle school children, a press release from the district says.
“The current Face Covering Policy requirements mandating masks for students, staff, visitors and vendors remains in effect — unless students have a medical exception per the current Face Covering Policy,” the release says.
Facial coverings are strongly encouraged, but not required, for district employees who are not school-based except when visiting a school campus where they are still required, the release says.
Broward County Superintendent Vicki Cartwright said the county was waiting for the positivity rate to drop below 3% for 10 consecutive days before revisiting the conversation around masking. Cartwright said the district hit that mark Sunday.
Osgood signaled she will call the board back to reassess masking protocols should the district start to see an uptick in positivity rates.
She also said she is waiting on vaccines to be approved for students under age 12 before considering whether to relax protocols in schools elementary students attend.
Osgood called the district’s decision to require masks “courageous” and reiterated her position that the district believes it is in compliance with the state Constitution. She and Cartwright said they will continue to make decisions based on what is best for students in their district, not according to threats from officials in Tallahassee.
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