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Palm Beach Co. School Board tackles issue of face masks

The Palm Beach County School Board meeting Wednesday night. (WPEC).{ }
The Palm Beach County School Board meeting Wednesday night. (WPEC).
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The Palm Beach County School Board unanimously approved Michael J. Burke as the interim Superintendent who will replace Dr. Donald Fennoy II, who recently announced his resignation.

Burke is currently the school district's CFO.

School Board members also heard hours of comments from parents on Wednesday night, much of it focusing on mask wearing.

Right now, masks are optional in Palm Beach County Schools for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year. However, School Board member Dr. Debra Robinson indicated she wanted to reexamine the district’s COVID mitigation plan, citing a growing number of COVID cases in Florida because of the Delta variant.

"Doggonit let's acknowledge the fact that we are still in a pandemic," said School Board Member Dr. Debra Robinson.

But, School Board Chair Frank Barbieri assured parents that the board was not considering changing its masking policies and making masks mandatory.

"We are not discussing that. There was not vote on that tonight and we are not doing that," he said.

Nonetheless, the decision to reexamine the COVID protocols prompted parents for and against masks to come out in force to Wednesday’s meeting.

“This is not for children. this is not for people who have a brain,” said one parent, referring to masks and vaccines.

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Other parents came to support mask use and ask board members to consider mandatory masking in schools for the upcoming school year.

“I came to say that the Superintendent’s reopening plan is grossly inadequate to protect students, unvaccinated elementary school and staff, from COVID-19,” said mother Kara Kessler Holt, who was booed by anti-mask attendees during her remarks at the meeting.

However, anti-mask parents made up the bulk of the speaking slots. Amber Costa, a mother from Jupiter, brought her children and had them addressing board members, opposing masks.

“I think that they’re violating our basic human rights. This is America,” she told CBS 12 News.

Tensions were high at points of the meeting. A large contingent of School District Police Officers were in attendance, blocking off some roads around the district’s administration building.

Apparent members of the far-right group The Proud Boys also gathered out front of the school, holding a sign that said “unmask the children.”

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