Alachua County Public schools not at risk of losing funding due to masking

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a Feb. 7 news conference in Miami.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a Feb. 7 news conference in Miami.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Alachua County Public Schools will no longer face sanctions for defying state orders by implementing a mask mandate at the start of the last school year as in-person classes resumed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis took a stance against Republican state lawmakers who wanted further sanctions against schools that defied the state's emergency rule on masking in schools during the 2021-2022 school year.

The loss of funding would have come from the school recognition program, a fund that gives financial awards to schools that receive an 'A' grade or improve more than one letter grade on state assessments. The recognition program was amended to award school districts who did not enforce a mask mandate.

Cases rise: New COVID cases rising in Alachua as area nears 'high' transmission level

Gainesville City Commission meeting canceled as 3 members recover from COVID

A pot of $200 million would have been on the line for districts who imposed mask mandates.

Other counties that were at risk of being penalized were Brevard, Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Indian River, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, Sarasota and Volusia counties.

"I’m glad this issue has been resolved in a way that acknowledges the accomplishments of our students, staff and schools. They’ve had a challenging year, and their work deserves recognition," said Shane Andrew, superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools.

Mildred Russell, school board member for Alachua County Public Schools, who wasn't in favor of masking in schools, said she's glad about DeSantis' decision.

"It didn't really hurt the school board; it hurt schools and students and principals who have worked so hard this year to get things back to normal," Russell said. "I think it's wonderful he understood the importance of that."

Other news: School district officials accidentally send parents 'active shooter' alert

Alachua County Public Schools implemented a mask mandate in August which led to controversy between state leaders, district chiefs and parents.

The implementation of the mask mandate led to districts losing $13,429 monthly in funding which equated to the combined amount of the school board members salaries, and additional funding in the amount of $149,000 that was given the federal project SAFE grant that was provided the U.S. Department of Education.

Following the governor's stance against state law makers DeSantis sent a Thursday letter to Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. stating he supports the Republican lawmakers decision in holding school administrators accountable as long as it didn't impact classrooms and schools.

"Because Florida kept schools open for in-person education over the last two years, we have avoided the most devastating learning losses as experienced in states that locked kids out of school. To do this, Florida had to overcome opposition from entrenched interests that were intent on shutting out our parents and students from opportunity, including union-controlled school board members. Florida teachers overwhelmingly wanted to teach in-person and did an admirable job under unprecedented circumstances," the letter reads.

School board member Tina Certain said she was delighted to hear the governor's decision. "Now their districts are not being financially penalized because they took action to keep their students and staff safe," Certain said.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: DeSantis decides not penalize Alachua Public Schools for masking