Thursday September 2, 2021

So we all know by now that Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered a ban on mask mandates in schools. Not only did he ban them, he threatened the salaries of superintendents and school board members who tried to enforce mask mandates anyway. We also know at this juncture, that a Florida judge ruled that banning mask mandates in our state is illegal. As of this morning, 17 school districts in Florida have established mask mandates so far, including Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. The mask mandate debate continues to unfold across the state and things are changing daily, but so far, the remaining districts including Hendry, Glades, Okeechobee and Martin County, have not imposed mandates. Check with your local school district’s website for the latest information.

Continuing with the big mask debate, Palm Beach County Superintendent Mike Burke said they had no choice but to implement the mask mandate because there are so many COVID-19 cases in his schools. Burke says that there is not a less restrictive way to protect children’s health since there are no vaccines approved for many school-aged children. A plethora of parents spoke out against the mandate, some saying they are scared that the district will next mandate vaccination. Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Palm Beach County Health Dept. said, the biggest chunk of cases are in 5- to 12-year-olds, as they make up 49 percent of the cases in the county.

On a much lighter note, Palm Beach State College has erased nearly $2.3 million in student debt for more than 3,100 students impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a press release. The move helped students settle unpaid account balances incurred during the pandemic and get back on track this fall to continue their education. Administrators say the students have expressed such relief and gratitude, and the staff is so happy to help the students overcome their financial barriers, so they can focus on school.  The College used a portion of its Higher Education Emergency Relief III institutional aid from the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law in March. It was the latest of three pools of stimulus funding PBSC received during the pandemic.

The Hendry-LaBelle Recreation Board will hold a special board meeting on Friday September 3 at 2:00 pm, at the Hendry-LaBelle Recreation Office at 310 W. Cowboy Way, to discuss approval of contracts to connect the Rodeo Grounds to the City of LaBelle sewer system.  The meeting is open to the public.  If you have a disability that will require special assistance or accommodation for your attendance at the meeting, please contact Hendry-LaBelle Recreation at (863) 675-5347.

The First United Methodist Church is considering a session of GriefShare beginning Sept. 22, probably at either 6:30 or 7. Its a non-denominational faith based video driven program which is 10 weeks long, that includes a workbook for short devotionals and some discussion. Whether or not these sessions move forward is based on COVID numbers and the interest shown. Masks will be required and distancing rules apply. Contact Pastor Jeff Smith at First United Methodist Church for more information. Call 863.677.0349 or 863.661.6936.

Florida school buses carry precious cargo. People driving by school buses should always be alert and drive with caution around the buses, and in school zones where children may be present. Well this isn’t always the case, unfortunately. According to a Hendry County school bus driver people are disregarding the stop signal on the school buses; risking the safety of our kids.  The Clewiston school bus driver reached out to WAFC out of concern, saying drivers are continually violating these advisories. State is taking action, and hitting violators where it hurts. As of January 1, 2021, the penalty for failure to stop for a school bus rose from a minimum $100 to $200. The penalty for passing a school bus on the side that children enter and exit when the school bus displays a stop signal, went from a minimum of $200 to $400. School bus drivers, parents and school administrators throughout the county, are urging drivers to please respect schools, bus stops, school buses and school parking lots. Parents should also go over safety tips with their children to make sure they are safe on and around school buses and school zones. We’ve included a diagram, courtesy of the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website, which shows when you MUST stop for school buses, and when you may proceed with caution. School Bus Safety – Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (