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Alachua County Superintendent, Board Chair relieved by $147K federal grant, addresses new state COVID-19 protocols

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 11:35 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - More than $147 thousand is going to the Alachua County School Board courtesy of the Biden administration after Gov. DeSantis withheld two months’ pay for four board members. Superintendent Carlee Simon said she wishes the board had that same support from the Florida Department of Education that withheld $27 thousand from school board members for imposing a mask mandate.

The district is the first to receive the “Project Safe” grant as part of Pres. Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan.

The U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a press release they stand with Alachua County educators doing “the right thing” to protect their school communities.

Related story: UPDATE: Alachua schools receive first federal funds to cover state mask mandate penalty, governor’s office responds

The project safe grant a part of the president’s COVID-19 action plan awarded school board members the funds to replace the two months pay Governor DeSantis took away and then some.

The conflict between DeSantis and the Alachua County School Board has been long standing.

“I would like the governor and the commissioner of education to allow us to do our job,” Simon said. “The difference here, we have a governor who is very much focused on individual freedoms and risking the collective public good and that’s unfortunate. We have a president who understands the bigger picture. We’re a society where we need to take care of each other.”

In a statement to TV20 Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary said, “Just a couple of months ago, the Biden Administration said that Florida would be violating federal requirements by providing $1,000 bonuses to teachers and principals. Therefore, it’s ironic that the federal government is now using taxpayer funding for education to pay the salaries of elected school board members, who made the decision to violate the law because they don’t believe parents have a right to choose what’s best for their children.”

More in the COVID-19 protocol debacle, Florida’s new Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo has changed quarantine rules in the state.

Related story: Florida Department of Health rule allows parents to opt students out of COVID quarantines, ACPS will not change policy

“After lock downs, overall mortality increased,” Ladapo said. “Lockdowns are bad. Lots of reasons why, that’s just one really good one.”

The new protocol allows parents to send an asymptomatic student to school despite direct contact with someone COVID positive.

Board Chair Leanetta McNealy said they won’t be following that protocol either.

“We were seeing our numbers decreasing but I would imagine with this new ruling that we are going to see an increase and so that deflates everything that we have tried to do as good stewards for the rights of children,” McNealy added.

In addition to that, Simon also commented on her lack of certification and she said the people who claimed she was in breach of her contract had a motive.

Related story: Alachua County School Board Attorney says superintendent is not in breach of contract

“There’s individuals who are upset with the mask policy and other decisions that I’ve made as superintendent and this is something where they’re looking for an opportunity to possibly have me removed.”

The board must submit a response to the FDOE regarding the new COVID-19 protocols by Friday at 5 p.m.

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