The Florida Board of Education has ruled that Palm Beach County and seven others around the state are violating state policy by not allowing parents to opt their kids out of restrictive mask mandates.
Superintendent Michael Burke addressed the board during Thursday's meeting. He said that while the school year opened with masks being optional, things got out of hand quickly.
"The delta variant proved to be a game changer, proven to be more transmissible and greater threat to our children than last year's alpha variant. After just four weeks of school, our number of COVID cases had exceeded the total number of cases experienced all of last school year."
He said that within the first few weeks of school, 4,000 to 5,000 students were directed to stay home each day due to either positive cases or potential exposures.
Thirteen days after the start of the school year, the parental opt-out was gone.
Burke told state board members that the restrictive mandate is needed to keep students in physical classrooms.
"We believe that our policy has been effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our schools. Our district will continue to monitor local health conditions in collaboration with our health officials and adjust protocols accordingly."
The board gave the school district 48 hours to comply or face financial sanctions, which Burke says would amount to $27,000 a month.
The same ruling was handed down for all of the other seven districts that are not allowing parental opt-outs. Those are Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade and Orange counties.
Broward and Alachua had already been losing funding.
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is also recommending that the school districts in violation have funding withheld equal to any money given to them by the Biden Administration. Thus far, Palm Beach has not received anything from the Project SAFE grant program.
Prior to the Board listening to all eight superintendents, they heard 30 minutes of calls from parents around the state. Most of the callers were on the side of penalizing the violating school districts, but there were a few who spoke out in favor of the mask mandates.