August 19, 2021
At the School Board Meeting of August 18, 2021, School Board Vice-Chair Dr. Steve Gallon III proposed School Board Agenda Item H-17 addressing COVID-19 related protocols, including masks for students for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year. The item was passed and co-sponsored by Chairwoman Ms. Perla Tabares Hantman, Ms. Lucia Baez-Geller, Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Ms. Maria Teresa Rojas, and Ms. Luisa Santos.

As the community, state, nation, and world continue to wrestle with the significant and adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, more specifically the Delta variant, school systems around the nation, including Miami-Dade, continue to grapple with ensuring safe and healthy learning and working environments for its employees and students. In doing so, safety related protocols, including the wearing of student masks have been a priority of school districts around the state of Florida, which has become a new epicenter of the increase of positivity rates.

In anticipation of the return of students and employees to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year, M-DCPS, as well as districts throughout the state of Florida, are being faced with an unprecedented increase in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated and even in rare instances the vaccinated.

The return of students and employees to the schoolhouse model has unquestionably heightened a sense of alarm, anxiety, and urgency in schools throughout the District. Despite the confirmed dedication and tireless efforts, M-DCPS is now faced with an increased obligation to review and update protocols, including those related to student masks for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year.

Dr. Gallon proffered an amendment to the original item to include a temporary provision, requiring the Superintendent to make weekly updates on local positivity rates, and the authority to modify or discontinue the requirement based on local COVID-19 and related data.

“I remain proud of my colleagues for their courage, leadership, and strength in responding to what has become a highly contentious, deeply emotional, and politically divisive issue,” said Dr. Gallon. “I felt that the item I proffered enabled us to square, as best we could under the circumstances, our duty and obligation to protect the health and safety of our employees and students, give voice to parents, and comply with our most fundamental obligations under the Constitution and laws of the State of Florida.”

“The Board, through its 7-1 vote, was resolute in its commitment to science and data driven decision making. It was convicted in courage, competence, and compassion as it relates to the safety, health, and welfare of students,” he continued.

“There has been a seemingly political argument made ‘against’ masks over the past two months. There was a scientific argument made ‘for’ masks in just a little over two hours. A 7-1 vote by this Board shows that one argument prevailed. The other did not.”

CONTACT: Pavi’Elle Phillips

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