Texas school boards have yet to decide whether to keep the mask requirement in schools now that the order to do so ends Wednesday.
On Monday, some Dallas-area school districts began to take a stand on the issue, trying to find a middle ground between public health and personal liberties.
In the Birdville school district near Fort Worth, spokesperson Kelvin Dilks told colleagues that he was pondering the matter all weekend while studying the possible health consequences.
“I am afraid for the teachers and for the children, for their integrity,” Dilks said.
“I think if we lose a child because we don’t wear a mask, will it have been worth it? We are very close to finishing the school year ”.
The heated debate over mask use has reached the point of screaming altercations in supermarkets and organized mask burning.
It is now up to local school authorities to decide, after Governor Greg Abbott announced the end of several covid-19 prevention restrictions last week.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) gave school boards power of discretion over the use of the mask on their campuses.
For some, sticking with the mask was an easy decision.
A day after the TEA issued the new guideline, several school districts, including Dallas, Richardson and Garland, announced that they would maintain the requirement to cover their faces.
The TEA instructs any district that wants to modify its current policies to do so formally through its governing boards.
Meanwhile, the Melissa School District has mandated that the use of the mask will be optional for students, staff, and visitors beginning March 10.
Work agendas show that Pilot Point and Krum spokesmen will discuss the matter this week, while elected officials from the Birdville district in Tarrant County, which has 23,000 students, received 74 responses from people asking the board to keep , modify or eliminate the mask use policy.
“I think it would be very unfair to ask a teacher who cares for covid to go to work every day in a classroom full of students who are not required to wear a mask,” wrote a teacher at Birdville High School.
“This is a real health risk, as many teachers are not yet vaccinated, and the virus is not under control.”
About 80% of Birdville teachers who gave feedback asked for the mask requirement to be maintained.
A similar percentage of commenters asked the table to keep the face covering requirement.
Some residents wanted small modifications, such as allowing students to remove their masks when at their desks or easing restrictions on younger children.
Less than 20% of the people who commented asked the members to remove the requirement.
“It is time to put an end to this nonsense of wearing masks in our schools,” wrote one parent.
“Those who want to wear it should be free to do so, but there should be no rules forcing people to wear masks in schools.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) point out that the correct use of the mask and physical distance allow schools to open with confidence and continue to teach in person.
Health experts have criticized recent attempts by several states, such as Texas, to lift covid-19 prevention measures before the pandemic is under control.
The country should not relax mitigation measures until the number of new infections falls to at least 10,000 a day, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with CNN last week.
On Sunday Texas reported nearly 3,000 new cases of coronavirus and the country more than 41,000.
The members of Birdville finally decided to ease the restrictions on third graders and below.
Member Joe Tolbert said he is in favor of requiring masks in schools because many teachers – many of whom have to teach in person – fear for their health.
“They keep going every day, and one of the reasons they are doing it is because the mask is worn and social distancing is practiced,” Tolbert said.
“The vast majority would like these protections to be maintained so that they can go to work in peace.”
The best place to educate children is school, and the best way for schools to stay open is to require the use of a mask, said spokesperson Whitney Harding.
In Birdville there are less than 11 weeks of school left this school year and the district could discuss some changes in the future when more people in the community are vaccinated, he added.
No vocal advocated for the complete elimination of the measure, but Dilks, Harding and the vocal Ralph Kunkel ended up differing from their colleagues, who voted 4-3 to require the mask to the youngest children of the district only in common spaces, as determined by the fans.
“Everybody is worried about a life,” said Board Chairman Jack McCarty. “If we care about a life, are we going to ban balloons because people missed balloons last year? “.
After the members voted, McCarty commented that this was probably the first time in 10 years that the table had had such a close vote.
Carroll’s school board heard the full range of opinions Monday night as some families claimed science supported the removal of the order and others pointed to the many deaths attributed to the coronavirus.
One parent referred to the mask as “muzzle”; another told members of how some parents teach their children to remove the mask and be rude to teachers when asked to wear it.
Superintendent Lane Ledbetter admitted that this is an issue that sparks emotions but recommended that the district continue to require the mask for now.
About 78% of teachers asked that the requirement to use it be maintained.
Given the upcoming availability of vaccinations for teachers and the county health authority recommending that Carroll schools maintain the use of the mask, Ledbetter said removing the measure would be unwise.
Carroll officials expect to discuss the policy again in about a month when more teachers are vaccinated and students have returned from spring break.
“Ultimately we are making decisions that affect 8,500 children and more than (15,000) to 20,000 parents in this community,” Ledbetter said.
“We are not experts in this; We hadn’t been through this before. I know that some are going to think that we are not making the right decision and that we are not catching up ”.