Pflugerville ISD begins school without masks, defying Travis County order

Education

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — Pflugerville ISD launched its first day of classes on Thursday without a mask mandate in place, defying a Travis County order issued Wednesday night.

Superintendent Dr. Doug Killian wrote to parents, explaining why he wouldn’t comply with the Travis County order.

“I do not want our students or staff members to be used as political pawns in the game between our local and state officials. We are working with our legal advisors and watching the court system and the legality of mask requirements,” Killian wrote.

A district spokesperson outlined safety procedures that were in place Thursday including hand washing, social distancing and seating charts in classes and lunch rooms. The district promised it would contact trace when there is a positive case.

August Plock, a social studies teacher at the high school and president of the Pflugerville Educators Association, estimated around 80% of students and 95% of teachers at Pflugerville High School voluntarily wore their masks on the first day.

Plock said the mask mandate would have been stronger if Travis County had secured a restraining order first against Gov. Greg Abbott, similar to what happened in Bexar and Dallas County courts earlier in the week.

With the district facing financial hardships, defying the state might have been too big of a risk, Plock said.

“We can’t afford to have teachers get involved in a massive lawsuit with the state of Texas over whether we will have a mask mandate or not.”

Even still, many parents complained, hoping for 100% compliance and district-led enforcement, similar to Austin Independent School District’s initiative.

Simon Quiroz dropped his first grader off at school Thursday morning, nervous for her wellbeing. He said she caught COVID-19 at camp earlier in the summer, which rapidly led to her declining health.

“You want to do something, but you can’t. And I don’t want to live through that again,” Quiroz said. “If someone with authority, in this case, Dr. Killian, does not take a step forward, it is also his responsibility. Every kid that gets sick without mask mandates, which we know works, is his responsibility. It’s his fault.”

A Travis County spokesperson said they were aware Pflugerville ISD wasn’t following the local order. Travis County Judge Andy Brown released a statement on the order, saying it “will protect countless lives and keep our community safe.”

When Abbott threatened to sue anyone who violates his executive order, Brown responded “the threat of being sued is nothing compared to the threat of kids getting sick and dying. I will not let that happen on my watch. I ask that you join me in this stance.”

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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