SAN ANTONIO – Some San Antonio-area school districts are making face masks optional for students and staff as the legal battle over mask mandates between state and local officials continues.
As of Sunday afternoon, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton, temporarily banning mask mandates in Bexar and Dallas counties.
In short, this means the temporary mask mandate put in place for public schools in Bexar County has come to a halt. At least, until the county’s planned injunction hearing on Monday.
A local district judge will then determine during the hearing whether the local governments can mandate masks.
Until then, NEISD said in a statement that although they’re making masks optional for students and staff, they’re still strongly encouraged.
You can read the district’s full statement below:
Alamo Heights ISD said in a release that face masks will also not be required for their students and staff, effective immediately.
You can read the full statement below from its superintendent:
“As a result of the Supreme Court ruling this evening, the Bexar County mask mandate is stayed while the Court considers the case. Therefore, the Governor’s executive order prohibiting a mask mandate is in full effect for AHISD. Masks will not be mandated on our campuses, effective immediately. I anticipate that this legal battle between State and County elected officials will continue to place our school districts in an untenable position of responding to ever-changing standards as we work diligently to open our schools and educate all students. There seems to be a very real misconception in our community (and others as well) that there is local discretion at this time to make decisions to best meet the needs of local communities. Recent court rulings continue to prohibit local control over this decision to require or not require masks. I encourage you to reach out to those elected State and County officials and make your voices heard on this issue. In the meantime, please support our schools through your cooperation and patience as we work to uphold the current law and work through these challenges. I want to acknowledge the overwhelming feedback the Trustees and I are receiving through emails, phone calls, and public comments at our board meetings. We are listening, and we hear your feedback and concerns and the various perspectives being shared. We continue to rely on legal counsel to make sound decisions based on our obligation to uphold the law, while at the same time open our schools and keep our schools open for learning throughout the duration of this pandemic. Again, it is imperative that elected State and County officials hear from you because they are the ones who are responsible for the current orders in place. Although the mask mandate will not be in effect starting Monday as anticipated, I urge our community to make an informed decision regarding the wearing of masks to support our efforts in keeping our schools open. To that end, I strongly encourage the wearing of masks at this time in accordance with the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC). I remind you of the public health directions from the Texas Department of Health Services that we are required to follow:
- Students who wear a mask will not be subject to quarantine for 14 days after close contact exposure
- Students who are vaccinated will not be subject to quarantine for 14 days after close contact exposure
I know that like me, our community celebrates the way that we were able to mitigate the campus spread of COVID last year. We successfully opened in August and kept our schools open throughout the entire year. Additionally, last year, we had only two confirmed incidents of campus-spread contagion. That was largely due to our multi-layered approach that included social distancing, self-screening for symptoms, cohorting of students (keeping them in assigned small groups), facility and operational efforts including HVAC improvements and sanitization efforts, and the wearing of masks. This year we will continue to be able to universally provide protection in four of the five areas listed above, and we also have the additional layer of protection that vaccinations provide for those over 12 years of age. It is important to note that data from schools in Bexar county that have been open for the last few weeks without the mask mandate are seeing much more campus-spread contagion than they did last year when masks were mandated. This is already leading to the disruption of learning due to students and staff on required quarantine, the utilization of substitute teachers in multiple classrooms, and an academic program that is at the mercy of the spread of the pandemic. This is certainly not the educational experience I want for our students and staff members. We are currently opening schools on Monday with six confirmed cases in our staff requiring substitute teachers facilitating beginning-of-the-year learning, which is not ideal by any means.I look forward to welcoming every one of our AHISD students back to school tomorrow! I continue to be hopeful that our greater AHISD community will choose to take care of one another and prioritize keeping our schools open just like we did last year with all mitigation efforts in place. Regardless of whether or not a student wears a mask, they will be treated with kindness and respect, and we will honor the choice of AHISD families. Our amazing AHISD teachers and staff have worked diligently to prepare for the opening of our classrooms tomorrow. We can’t wait to see all of our AHISD students back on our campuses!”
South San Antonio Independent School District is among those who are no longer mandating masks among students or staff.
Still, the district is encouraging face coverings to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. You can read the full statement from South San ISD below:
“As a reminder, South San ISD is truly committed to keeping our students, staff, families, and community members safe. We are continuing our strict and rigid health and safety protocols which include:
- Masks available at all South San ISD Facilities
- Daily building, classroom, and bus cleaning and misting.
- Adherence to CDC Guidelines on social distancing.
- Plexiglass dividers in schools.
- On-site COVID Testing availability.
- Scheduled COVID Vaccination clinics.
- Continued contact tracing.
“We highly encourage staff, students, and parents to maintain our culture of compassionate safety” explained Superintendent Dr. Marc Puig. “We have successfully followed rigid safety protocols during this challenging time and we want everyone to feel confident and secure in visiting South San ISD facilities.”
Harlandale ISD sent a letter to students and their families Sunday, saying although the mask mandate is lifted, it is still strongly encouraging face coverings for all.
You can read the full statement below:
We’ll bring more updates to this story as more school districts speak out following the court’s ruling.