HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Hays Consolidated Independent School District’s superintendent, Dr. Eric Wright, feels masks should be worn in schools but won’t challenge Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on it.
Abbott’s order stops local officials and jurisdictions from mandating masks, including school districts.
Wright calls the mask mandate topic a politically-charged issue, saying he wants to stay out of the politics.
“We just don’t think we have the authority to enforce if we were to create a mask mandate,” Wright said. “If students showed up in our district, and they weren’t wearing a mask… we don’t think that anyone would come in and actually support that [enforcement]. If we say that there’s a mask mandate, I need to make sure that 100% of people are going to wear masks.”
In wanting to do what’s best for students, Wright also wants to make sure he’s doing right by the district by setting an example.
“I just don’t think it’s in the best interest to be a rule breaker instead of a rule follower, because what does that teach our children?” he said.
Wright told KXAN the district could also face fines if they tried to mandate masks. Still, there’s a big question mark as to what the hallways — and the faces in it — will look like this school year for Hays CISD.
“As a parent, it’s been hard to sleep at night wondering what it’s going to be like sending my 7-year-old to school,” Melissa Huckabay said.
While Brittany Schaefer applauds Wright’s decision to stick with the governor’s mandate, she said she is still going to tell her kids to have the extra layer of protection.
“My kids will be wearing masks,” Schaefer said.
Stephen Coco also support Wright’s decision to allow parents to choose.
“[My daughter] was forced to wear a mask, and this year she’s thrilled to be able to have the option,” Coco said. “It’s important that we respect each other’s decisions as adults… because in a high-tension time like this, it’s easy to be angry and mean to one another.”
Other parents like Mariana Garcia are upset, saying Hays CISD should do more to protect children.
“My question to him is are our children and your staff — are these lives not precious enough to fight for?” Garcia asked.
Others are disappointed Wright isn’t challenging the governor, saying children’s lives are at stake.
“I think at this point our children’s lives, as well as the school staff’s, are more important than breaking one law… he is a coward for not standing up with all the other superintendents in Texas,” Jackie Wright said. “He says he cares, but he doesn’t if he is not doing anything to help.”
Jackie is worried about her unvaccinated fifth grader and high schooler.
“Even though many think it’s best practice, and it probably is, at the same time, it is the law,” Wright said.
As of Wednesday, just under 300 have applied for Hays CISD’s Homebound Academy, which allows students with a prior medical condition to do school from home. But not all qualify.
“We just feel stuck,” Huckabay said.
According to Hays CISD, staff will be following what happens legally with other districts who are defying the governor, seeing if there’s an outcome that helps Hays CISD enforce a mask mandate.