Leander ISD welcomes back students without mask requirement

Education

LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — The Leander Independent School District welcomed back students for in-person learning Thursday, but masks aren’t required in district schools.

The district has schools in both Williamson and Travis counties, which has brought some confusion. On Wednesday, the day before school started, Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Austin Mayor Steve Adler signed orders to mandate masks in public schools.

“We’ve already been in court twice with the governor. The district court the last two times has upheld our ability to issue these kinds of orders locally,” Adler told KXAN. “The Supreme Court hasn’t weighed in yet on the merits. I guess that will eventually happen, but regardless, it’s important for us to send the message to the community that masking, vaccinations are important.”

Inside Leander ISD, however, there isn’t a mask requirement. District officials sent a statement to KXAN Thursday saying because of the conflicting orders, they don’t plan to change course.

“We will follow rules set forth by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and state leadership, as well as the guidance of local health agencies as outlined in our current COVID-19 protocols. The city and county orders conflict with the governor’s order (GA-38), and until we receive different guidance from the state, we plan to follow the governor’s order,” Leander ISD wrote in a statement to KXAN.

The move isn’t sitting well with some parents in the district.

“I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around what happened to local control, because we’ve always, especially here in Texas, fought for our local leaders to determine what’s best for your residents,” said Leander ISD parent Liz Grimes.

Grimes sent her middle and high schoolers back to school in person for the first time in over a year Thursday. Her biggest concern is her 3-year-old at home, who isn’t eligible for the vaccine yet.

“Look at all of the pictures I saw on social media today, and their friends, teachers not wearing masks… it’s very scary. To me, again, only one of my children is able to get vaccinated,” said Grimes.

Other parents in Leander are doing their best to keep up with the ever-changing guidelines. Vanessa Garza sent her 6-year-old to kindergarten for the first time Thursday.

“He had the option to start kinder last year, but we decided to hold him back with everything being on lock down, and everything being unknown,” said Garza.

Garza was able to walk her child into his classroom on Thursday. She said she was greeted by his teacher wearing a mask and handing out hand sanitizer. Regardless of the mask mandate she said he’ll be wearing his mask at school.

“We’re just trying to do everything we can to keep him safe, especially since there isn’t a vaccine yet,” said Garza. “Some of the kids were wearing a masks, and others weren’t.”

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