TEA: Local school boards to decide mask policies in schools

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Next Wednesday, Texas’ mask mandate will no longer be in effect and businesses will reopen to 100%, and changes could come to local schools regarding mask policies.

Under new guidance from the Texas Education Agency, public local school boards can decide whether to do away with mask policies in schools. According to TEA, a public school system’s current practices on masks may continue unchanged, be modified, or even eliminated.

MyHighPlains.com reached out to local public schools for more information regarding potential school board actions on mask policies.

On Thursday, Canyon ISD said masks are on the agenda for its school board meeting Monday. The district said it will visit with city, county, and health department officials regarding masks.

Deaf Smith County has remained a hot spot for coronavirus cases.

Hereford ISD Superintendent Sheri Blankenship said on Thursday the Board of Trustees would meet Monday at 6 p.m. and one agenda item will include masks.

As of Thursday night, Amarillo ISD said there is no update regarding masks.

“There’s a lot of worry that we’ll kind of jump into a rash decision that might meet the politics of the community without fully discussing the safety needs of our schools,” said Aaron Phillips, who serves as President of the Amarillo Education Association and teaches at Coronado Elementary School.

Phillips said the majority of teachers in the AEA want mask policies to continue through this school year.

“Most of our members know that the face coverings are the key element and what keeps us safe. In the classroom, in a lot of a lot of situations, we’re not able to social distance, we don’t have the air circulation we need, so the mask is our line of defense,” said Philipps.

He continued, “Keeping the mask mandate in place for just 10 more weeks of school will help us get to the finish line and ensure that we’re not disrupting any part of the school year with a potential outbreak.”

Amanda Fitzgerald, who teaches at Palo Duro High School, said she believes the discomfort of wearing a mask outweighs the risk of not wearing one.

“We serve our students. Our students don’t want an outbreak. Our students don’t want to be forced to stay home again. Our students don’t want to be sick. Our students have been sick. This has not been an exciting event for any of us. They want to be at school,” Fitzgerald said.

When asked what she would say to the Amarillo ISD Board of Trustees, Fitzgerald said, “It’s my hope that they keep our safety ahead of the wishes of anybody who is more apt to consider the discomfort that a mask might bring. We need to continue wearing masks until the end of the school year. So, I hope that they continue with that.”

Fitzgerald said she will receive her first vaccine dose Friday but right now, masks are the only protection her school has from covid-19.

“The students are actually concerned about getting rid of them and I’ve already had students voice that they’re going to continue to wear their masks, regardless of what is said,” Fitzgerald added.

As MyHighPlains.com reported Wednesday, Texas educators and child care workers are now eligible for coronavirus vaccines.

However, many who work in schools and daycares will not be fully vaccinated for weeks, as the City of Amarillo’s vaccine clinic uses Moderna’s shot, which requires a second dose at least 28 days after the first.

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