LISD reiterates stance on masks
Austin and Dallas school districts this week announced they would put in place mask mandates, defying an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott prohibiting local officials from requiring citizens to mask up.
Officials in Lockhart ISD are not expected to follow suit at this time following a statement from the district that said it planned to continue adhering to the governor’s order but “encourages” people on LISD campuses to wear masks and take other safety precautions.
“The Governor’s order prohibits mask requirements by government entities and school districts,” LISD’s statement read. “However, the district welcomes and encourages everyone to wear masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. “Additionally, we continue to share information about vaccine opportunities in our community. We will work hard to protect the safety of students and staff and the continuity of learning and services for our students. This is the course we are taking at this time.”
The statement remains consistent with what Lockhart school officials said in July when it unveiled its pandemic response plan for the 2021-2022 school year. The plan includes continuing education, transparency, regular self-screening among teachers and employees, virtual tutoring for sick students and hygiene and sanitation protocols, but doesn’t include mandatory mask wearing by teachers or staff, mandatory vaccinations or a virtual classroom option.
In creating its protocol for the upcoming school year, Brents said the district sought guidance from the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, the Texas Education Agency and its employees.
The district plans to continue sending home letters when a student has been potentially exposed to a case of COVID-19, and will continue to maintain its case dashboard to give the community an accurate case count.
The district has posted the document it calls Leading Forward 2021-22 on its website in English and Spanish. It can be found under “Quicklinks” at the top of the district’s website.
Masks were required indoors and outdoors during much of the 2020-21 school year.
The CDC’s latest guidance recommends local jurisdictions encourage universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Local governments in Texas — which include cities, counties and school districts — are prohibited from mandating mask wearing. Gov. Greg Abbott in May issued an executive order subjecting local governments or officials who attempt to impose a mask mandate to a fine of up to $1,000.
The governor’s office has not released information about how it would assess those fines to school districts.
The move to require masks from the Austin Independent School District came following pressure from parents. At a back-to-school town hall last week, some parents pressed Austin district officials for not challenging the governor’s order against mask mandates.
Austin’s health authority, Dr. Desmar Walkes, supported the move, telling the AISD board COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions among youth in the Austin region had jumped from June to July.