By Joan Murray

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Broward County School Board voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to make the use of masks mandatory for the start of the school year.

“The one thing that we know that has helped us is a mask,” said Broward School Board Chair Dr. Rosalind Osgood.

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For the second consecutive day, there was fiery debate on the use of masks at the board’s headquarters in Fort Lauderdale.

Initially, the district was poised to make mask-wearing voluntary, but after the CDC recommended masks for grades K through 12 on Tuesday, most board members agreed that caution was necessary.

“Mask gives us something that minimizes the likelihood of us transmitting the virus,” said Dr. Osgood. “It is the most protection that we have at this time outside of being vaccinated.”

At least a dozen people who opposed masks showed up at district headquarters Wednesday to vent.

“Masks inhibit interaction with teachers and other children,” said one speaker.

“Parents should have the choice,” said another.

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But after public comment, board members said with the uptick in COVID cases, they couldn’t agree to a voluntary mask policy, because it would put teachers and children at risk.

“It is unconscionable to me to think that I can bring back students and staff and employees into a close environment… and not have them protect themselves,” said Dr. Osgood.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said lawmakers would be willing to hold a special session to prohibit mask-wearing this school year.

“It should not be mandated, and I know our legislature feels strongly about it such that if you started to see a push from the feds or some of these local school districts, I know they’re interested in coming in, even in this special session to provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely and don’t want to be suffering under these masks,” said Gov. DeSantis.

During the board meeting, speakers were ushered in one by one to the board workshop to avoid scenes like the ones just 24 hours ago when the board postponed their mask discussion.

The emotion carried through Wednesday as one by one anti-maskers vented.

“This is what our children are wearing on their faces. I wish I could pass this around to you so that you can see the build-up and the filth that is on my child’s face. Masks inhibit kids’ interaction with our teacher and other children.”

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Broward schools start in three weeks’ time. This debate is not over.