Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ vision for the upcoming school year is for schools to drop mask requirements, he told the state Board of Education Thursday.
Students are starting summer break, and school districts envision what the fall will look like as Florida continues emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the school districts “are there already,” DeSantis said, streaming into the meeting remotely from the West Coast, where he’s on a fundraising tour.
“I think when we go into August when the schools come back, it’s got to be a normal school year, and that’s what we should be doing, and I think that’s the best-stuff formula for success for our students,” DeSantis said.
Several school districts in Florida and across the nation began scrapping mask mandates before the end of the school year.
“I think most of them have already decided that kids should be able to go to school normally, that they should not be forced to wear masks,” DeSantis said. “But I think that that’s important that we that we do that statewide.”
However, to get the final school districts on board, DeSantis suggested the Legislature or the Board of Education take action.
“I would ask that we get a good reporting on that relatively soon,” he added, “so that we know what we’re looking at.”
During a news conference in Jacksonville last month, DeSantis called that direction “relatively simple.”
“These kids do not need to be wearing these masks, OK — I’m sorry, they don’t,” he said. “We need to be able to let them be kids and let them act normally.”
Last summer, DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran drove the effort to reopen classrooms for the start of the school year. For the spring semester, the pair leaned in further into brick-and-mortar schooling, calling for “massive interventions” and to steer students struggling in virtual learning toward in-person classrooms.
DeSantis, who resisted calls to issue a statewide mask mandate, signed an executive order last month lifting all local emergency restrictions related to the pandemic, including mask mandates. But his order did not impact local school district masking requirements.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 12 and has begun tests on those younger.