Even though there was no chance of a mask mandate, the Flagler County School Board meeting Tuesday evening again devolved into an ugly spectacle of anti-mask militancy that at times turned threatening, homophobic, Islamophobic and covid-denying, and required the meeting again to be briefly recessed and board members sent to a safe room.
Flagler County School Board
The Flagler County School Board will vote on a rezoning plan in December, and on Tuesday will hear an updated, phased-in approach that will focus on the two middle schools first, where sixth graders will be shifted starting next year. Localized but intense opposition to rezoning plans compelled the administration to propose a more phased-in approach than a county-wide rezoning.
The Flagler County School Board’s day-long “retreat” on Sept. 9, designed to hone leadership and cohesion skills, was a grueling, at times a shocking display of mistrust, dysfunction, dissembling and exasperation by the board members as the fallout from recent issues revealed deep fissures. Whether the board can bridge huge gaps of mistrust remains uncertain.
In an unexpected turn, what the Flagler County school district thought was a mere formality before the County Commission turned into a 90-minute grilling by commissioners and a parade of doubt by builders who consider the district’s request to double impact fees ill-thought and ill-timed.
At least two school districts — Volusia and Lee — that previously adopted strict mask mandates have decided to allow parents to opt their students out of the policy for any reason, while a third, Indian River, now requires masks only at certain times when Covid-19 surges in isolated schools.
The Flagler County School Board on Sept. 7 adopted its property tax rate and $212 million budget for 2021-22. The tax rate, set by lawmakers in Tallahassee, continues a two-and-a-half decade downward trend, to $5.865 per $1,000 in taxable value, down from $6 last year.
Dr. Stephen Bickel, the medical director at the Flagler Health Department, discussed stronger covid-safety measures with the Flagler County School Board today, but in the end a majority of the board, citing the governor’s executive banning mask mandates, showed no inclination to adopt such measures as mandatory masking.
Flagler County’s weekly case load fell from a pandemic high of 936 last week to 789 this week, as of today, still the second-highest total of the 20-month crisis. Nearly half the total number of infections is among students and employees of Flagler County schools.
The Flagler County school district has the third-highest rate of Covid infections among students and staff out of 38 Florida school districts that are reporting their Covid numbers since the resumption of the school year less than four weeks ago, a FlaglerLive analysis finds. There is still no “appetite” for changing course and adopting a mask mandate, according to the school board member who tried enacting one two weeks ago, though data points to a direct correlation between masks and lower infection rates in Florida districts.
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