WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The head of the Palm Beach County School Board reacted on Monday to a new executive order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis which gives parents the final say over whether their children should wear face masks in school.
In a written statement to WPTV, School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri said the School District of Palm Beach County's general counsel looked into the order and determined it "does not limit a School Board’s authority to do what the Board believes necessary to protect students and staff in our schools."
However, Barbieri said the order does allow parents "to disregard any Board action" regarding the mandatory masking of students.
The 2021-22 academic year for Palm Beach County public schools is scheduled to begin on Aug. 10 with optional face coverings for all students, staff members and visitors inside school buildings and on school district transportation.
Barbieri said if any school board imposes restrictions that impede parental choice regarding face masks, that district may be penalized and not receive state funding.
The school board chairman said the School District of Palm Beach County will "continue strongly urging the wearing of masks on our campuses."
As an added measure to protect students and staffers, the district recently spent $6 million to purchase approximately 13,000 portable HEPA air filters for every classroom in the district.
Those filters started arriving on Monday and will be placed in elementary school classrooms first, according to Barbieri.
Interim Superintendent Michael Burke told WPTV last week the goal is to have all the filters in place by late September.
Barbieri said Burke and the school board will discuss further COVID-19 mitigation strategies at Wednesday's board meeting.