Eanes ISD is aware there are currently at least 20 legal actions in Texas challenging or supporting the mandating of masks in public schools. We are also aware the Texas Education Agency has publicly stated the Governor’s Order making masks optional is not being enforced until litigation concludes. That litigation continues in multiple counties, against multiple school districts throughout the state. The Travis County Order requiring masks in schools has not been challenged in court by the Texas Attorney General or Governor Abbott, and the Order is not currently under review by the Texas Supreme Court.
Until we have a final ruling by the Texas Supreme Court, the only thing clear is that things are unclear. Like many, we look forward to the final ruling of the Texas Supreme Court for clarity. Until then, at the present time, we continue to operate under a Travis County Order, which requires masks in schools. As we have stated before, we are not requiring masks during outdoor activities (e.g. athletic events), outdoor physical education, band, extracurriculars, for children with special needs, and while eating/drinking.
At the Sept. 9 Board meeting, the Board and Administration discussed the mask requirement and the length to which we would ask our building staff to go to enforce that requirement. We want to keep the relationships between staff and students as respectful and solid as possible. To that end, we concluded we will not put principals or teachers in the difficult position of enforcing the wearing of masks by removing children from class when those students want to learn. Likewise, local authorities indicate they also cannot assist us with enforcement of a mask mandate nor will they physically remove an individual from our campuses for not wearing a mask. Instead, we will work with students to keep our community and schools as safe as possible by strongly encouraging mask wearing, particularly while those under 12 cannot be vaccinated and we are in Stage 5 with area hospitals reporting significant stress.
In addition, we do have some students who have applied for and received medical exemptions to the mask requirement through concurrence of a physician, and some students who may remain maskless because of service delivery needs through our Special Education and Section 504 departments.
The vast majority of our students continue to wear masks, while inside our schools, and we have been more fortunate than some surrounding school districts in not closing grade levels, classes or activities due to outbreaks. Our objective has been consistent: to keep our schools open for in-person learning throughout the pandemic.
We will do all we can to ensure our schools, students and staff are as safe as possible as we continue to follow strict cleaning and sanitization protocols, limit visitors to our campuses and encourage students to wear masks. We understand some students, for one reason or another, will not wear masks and we will not direct our staff to physically remove a child from class for not wearing a mask; however, we will not be deterred from working to keep our school environment as safe as possible.