LIBERTY HILL, Texas (KXAN) — A school district that had to shut down last year due to a spike in COVID-19 cases welcomed students back into the classroom Thursday.
The Liberty Hill Independent School District is not requiring masks inside the classroom but is strongly recommending them. Virtual learning is not an option this school year.
“It’s always exciting to see the little ones running around and making noises, just because they’re happy,” said Liberty Hill parent Joey Priester.
Priester dropped his second-grader off at Rancho Sienna Elementary wearing a mask on the first day of school. Parents have the choice to mask or not mask their students.
“I can understand why certain administrations wouldn’t want to push it, but I work in health care, and I also understand the risks,” said Priester.
The risk deterred Sweta Patt from putting her kindergartener in public school in the district.
“We took him out of this elementary school and put him in a Montessori school,” said Patt.
In the Montessori school, classes are smaller, and Patt said more safety protocols are being implemented. It was an expensive choice she felt she and her family needed to make.
“The situation isn’t ideal for anyone involved, but it is our job as adults and as intelligent humans to decide,” said Patt. “Given the boundaries, given my limitations with the situation today… what is the best thing I can do to keep my child safe and secure?”
“My kids are involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, and there’s just not a lot of masks here,” said Kristen, another Liberty Hill parent.
Kristen sent her students back to Rancho Sienna Elementary wearing masks but wishes everyone would choose safety first.
“People talk about your freedom and things like that, but no one questions seatbelts. No one questions smoke detectors or when we get fined, because our grass is too tall,” said Kristen.
Liberty Hill ISD’s superintendent told KXAN enrollment hasn’t suffered because of the lack of a mask requirement or a virtual learning option. The district ended last year with 5,786 students, and on Thursday 1,829 students were enrolled, which is a 25.7% growth rate.
Part of that growth is also coming from a new middle school that was added this year.
Liberty Hill has four homebound students this year, and the superintendent said a few parents asked about virtual options and were referred to a list of Texas Education Agency-approved virtual options.