Central Texas school districts receiving pushback for keeping mask policies in place

Education

BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — The Texas Education Agency said local school districts can decide whether or not to keep their mask rules for students and staff.

This week, board members for the Johnson City Independent School District voted to remove their mask policy. Some families in Bastrop County are pushing for the same.

As the statewide mask mandate ends Wednesday, debates surrounding COVID-19 restrictions resurfaced.

“It’s not the time yet,” said one employee of the Bastrop Independent School District, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of backlash.

The governor’s office and the TEA have left masking up to individual school districts. On Friday, Bastrop ISD announced its policy would remain in place.

“I think the parents should make that decision and discuss it with their kids and decide ultimately, is this something that we should do?” said Megan Voigt, a mom of three Bastrop ISD students.

Voigt was among three parents who submitted their concerns to the BISD board during Tuesday night’s meeting. Those concerns included claims that the face coverings make it difficult to breathe.

Megan Voigt pictured with her children, who are all Bastrop ISD students. (Photo: Megan Voigt)

“Temperatures are on the rise. I’m incredibly concerned that this won’t be the last time I see my sweet boy unconscious from lack of fresh, cool air,” said Courtney Nodurft, who told board members her elementary student passed out on the bus wearing a mask after overheating.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does recommend masks, even doubling up for better protection.

But it adds masks should not be placed on children younger than two years old, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious and anyone who is incapacitated or can’t remove their mask without help.

BISD responded to KXAN saying a majority of parents and staff members that have reached out to the district support the mask rule.

“The majority of parents and staff members who have reached out to us, either directly or indirectly, have expressed their support and appreciation for the decision to continue wearing masks in school,” wrote associate superintendent Kristi Lee.

She also said the school district will not be reconsidering its policy right now.

“In its most recent guidance, the Texas Education Agency indicated that masks shall continue to be worn in schools unless and until the local school board overturns that decision. The Bastrop ISD school board and district leadership are in agreement with TEA and the CDC that mask wearing should continue in our schools in the interest of the health and safety of our students and staff. Although the day may come when we are able to relax and/or eliminate the requirement of masks in our schools, that day is not now. We look forward to welcoming all students and staff with masks tomorrow and each day until such time as we can safely make a different decision.”

Kristi Lee, Bastrop ISD associate superintendent

“I honestly believe that masks — that mandated mask wearing has been probably the only thing keeping me safe, keeping my coworkers safe, keeping the students safe this past year, or if not the only thing, the main thing,” said the BISD employee.

She’s worried about confrontation.

“I’m concerned about students arguing with us, that they should not have to wear masks. I’m concerned about parents being upset that their students, that as of right now, the district is saying that the students still must wear masks,” she said.

Bastrop ISD didn’t say how they’d enforce masks starting Wednesday, when Voigt says she’ll be sending her students to the classroom without one.

“We understand the [health] risks that come with that, and we’re willing to accept those risks and responsibilities,” Voigt said.

In an email to the school district, Voigt said if any staff member tries to enforce a mask rule for her children, she will take legal action.

For the anonymous employee, a reversal would force her to quit her job.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Austin-Travis County

More Austin-Travis County News

Tracking the Coronavirus

Coronavirus Cases Tracker

Latest Central Texas COVID-19 Cases

More Coronavirus Live Blogs

Trending Stories

Don't Miss