University of Florida faculty want to join Alachua County Public Schools in mandating masks for students and staff

State Board of Education gives Alachua County School Board 48 hours to eliminate mask mandate
Published: Aug. 21, 2021 at 12:02 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The same day that the State Board of Education sent a letter threatening Alachua County Public School funding over their mask policy, faculty unions at the University of Florida held a press conference demanding the university also go against the state.

A letter from the Florida Board of Education to the Alachua County School Board said the district will lose funding if they do not get rid of their mask mandate in the next 48 hours. The state board determined ACPS is in violation of the governor’s order, but Superintendent Carlee Simon believes they made their decision heading in.

" If the process of a hearing is to actually hear what people are saying then I’m not sure as though that occurred,” said Simon. “It did seem as though the board, the commissioner, and the chair of the board especially had a decision prior to the hearing. So, it was really a formality.”

The U.S. Secretary of Education reached out to Simon on Friday to assure her the department stands with the school district. The U.S. Department of Education is telling school districts that if they are punished for mandating masks, federal money can be used to make up the difference.

Officials with the United Faculty of Florida at UF are pushing university leaders to follow suit by requiring masks on campus.

“I’m asking the University of Florida, don’t take a leap of faith do the right thing,” said UFF-UF Co-President Paul Ortiz. “As a military veteran, we know there are situations where if your superiors give you an order that is going to deprecate human life, violate the human right to disobey the order. Even the military has it. So why can’t our civilian authorities do the same thing.”

The faculty union and the Graduate Assistants United are also asking university leaders to require that the first three weeks of class are online wherever possible, a vaccine requirement, transparent and frequent UF covid reporting.

The co-president of the GAU said it is hypocritical that UF is not listening to their own scientists.

“U-F Health is requiring it for all of their facilities.,” said Hartnett. “That includes UF Health teaching facilities. The UF Veterinary Medicine School is requiring masks, so they know that it’s dangerous. It is absolutely hypocritical that they will not require masks that their own scientists and medical experts say are necessary to help prevent a massive spike.”

The University of Florida responded with a statement that said, ”We know members of the UF community have concerns and are facing unique challenges as a result of the pandemic, and we will use the resources and tools available to us to address them. While no state university in Florida has the authority to require vaccines – only the state has that authority – UF is strongly encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and is following state Board of Governors guidance by expecting everyone to wear a mask inside all UF facilities.

The best protection possible is getting vaccinated and wearing a mask. Vaccines are safe, effective and widely available on campus. If we all do our part, we will weather the current COVID-19 surge.”

RELATED STORY: UPDATE: ACPS stands pat as State Dept. of Education orders Alachua, Broward County School districts to drop mask mandate or lose funding

Copyright 2021 WCJB. All rights reserved. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.