Dozens of police officers were standing by as the Palm Beach County School Board held a meeting Wednesday evening with masked and unmasked spectators watching from separate rooms, as the board said it would abide with the latest state rule that takes a "symptoms-based approach" to quarantining students.

A crowd of about 40 people sat in the masked section of the meeting, while those who wanted to go without a face covering were in a room across the parking lot.

During the board meeting, more than 50 people spoke in person or via video conference to address the school system's Covid-19 policies. Others called the board to relay their messages.

The school system is one of several in the state that has a mask mandate, defying Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has said face covering decisions should be left up to parents.

The state on Wednesday announced a revised policy that will allow for asymptomatic children exposed to Covid-19 to return to schools if preferred by a parent or guardian.

"Some parents may be less comfortable sending their kid back to school after being exposed, and so the new rule allows for those parents to keep their children home for a period of time, and the new rule also allows for parents who are more comfortable letting their healthy child return to school go back to school," said Dr. Joe Ladapo, Florida's new surgeon general and Department of Health secretary.

The board said it was siding with the state's "symptom-based approach" regarding quarantining.

"There's a new surgeon general and he's changed the decision tree, so now we modified our policy to meet the new surgeon general's decision tree," school board chairman Frank Barbieri said.

Most of the participants at the meeting spoke in opposition of a mask mandate.

One person arrived with their young daughter wearing a mask that said, "This is a control device."

One person said he was being denied entry into the meeting because of his signage. He was wearing a "defund the school board" sign around his neck. He said he was told signage was not allowed inside.

Early speakers, most of whom who wore masks, sharply criticized the board for the mandate.


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