Palm Beach County, Fla., has asked 440 students to quarantine just two days into the school year, after 51 students and faculty had confirmed cases on COVID-19.
The School District of Palm Beach County, the 10th largest school district in the country, teaches an estimated 197,000 students, according to the district’s website. While students and staff are required to wear masks in the district, Interim School District Superintendent Michael Burke said in an interview with MSNBC that 5,700 Palm Beach students have opted out, per an order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that allows parents to give permission to their children to do so.
Burke blamed the opt-out rule as the reason for the spike in cases, calling on DeSantis to make changes to protect students from infection.
“The governor has got to take responsibility for establishing the ground rules we’re operating under,” Burke said. “This ability for families to opt out is leading to more cases, which will ultimately send more kids home and deprive them of that traditional classroom experience.”
DeSantis had previously announced that the state Board of Education could withhold pay from school leaders who implemented mask mandates for students after several superintendents and school board members neglected to follow an executive order from DeSantis banning school districts from requiring students to wear face coverings.
“I think if we really are committed to keeping kids in school, we should reassess the situation,” Burke said.
Josie Fischels is an intern on NPR’s News Desk.