CONTACT: Pavi’Elle Phillips
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF DR. STEVE GALLON III
August 13, 2021
At the School Board Meeting of August 18, 2021, School Board Vice Chair Dr. Steve Gallon III will propose School Board Agenda Item H-17 addressing COVID-19 related protocols, including masks for students for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year. This item was 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. In fact, Florida reported 21,683 new COVID-19 cases as of July 30, 2021, the single-highest daily COVID-19 case count since the pandemic began 18 months ago, according to Center for Disease Control data. The seven-day moving average soared to 15,817 on July 30, a more than 750% increase since July 1, 2021. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the patients are unvaccinated.
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. One such review and decision to be made by the School Board involves the wearing of masks by students. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released updated guidance, recommending that all students over 2 years old, along with school staff, wear facial coverings indoors, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Although the wearing of facial coverings is strongly recommended during the school day and at school-related events, the School Board must weigh parents’ right to have their child attend public school without a facial covering, as well as provisions delineated in the Governor’s Executive Order and actions taken by the State Board of Education.
“Despite much of the public rancor and political posturing regarding the masking of students, after final input from the team of medical experts, next Wednesday the School Board of Miami-Dade County as the ultimate and accountable authority of this district will decide on this issue,” said Dr. Gallon.
“The co-sponsorship of this item is an indication that the majority of my colleagues are in support of balancing our priority to protect our students and employees, respect parental rights, and comply with any and all legal authority governing this matter.”
To read the full item go to: