AUSTIN (KXAN) — On the heels of Gov. Greg Abbott’s new executive order, which lifts the statewide mask mandate and allows businesses to open to 100% capacity next week, the Texas Education Agency is promising to release new guidance for schools later in the week.
The governor told Lubbock radio host Chad Hasty it will be up to the TEA to issue safety protocols for school districts to follow, similar to what happened over the summer.
KXAN reached out to most of the school districts in Central Texas, asking if they plan to lift the mask mandate or if there are any operational changes planned for the near future.
Lockhart, Leander, Round Rock, Hays CISD and Pflugerville ISD said masks will still be required in buildings. Austin ISD, Eanes and San Marcos CISD said unless TEA guidance says otherwise, it will continue to enforce the current protocols.
Professional teaching associations said this executive order offering leniency to the entire state let them down. They’re hoping the TEA establishes firm guidance, which mandates strict rules in the classroom and prioritizes vaccines for staff.
“Every time the governor speaks, it’s a slap in the face to educators, because he is not listening to us. We want to be safe, we want to be back in schools, and this is not the way to get us there,” said Ovida Molina, president of the Texas State Teachers Association. “We want to return to a life without the fear of dying every single day, because that is still the reality.”
Shannon Holmes, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, made a strong push to prioritize vaccines for educators.
“If classrooms look different than they do now, meaning if students aren’t required to wear masks and socially distance, that just increases the likelihood that the adults in the classroom, and the students, for that matter, spread the disease,” Holmes said. “That is going to create anxiety for educators out there for how those things are going to manifest themselves in the classroom.”
Auguste Couser, a mom of two in the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District, was pleased to hear the governor’s announcement. Her 11-year-old son has been struggling academically in school. She hopes this is a push toward normalcy, where children don’t have to wear masks and more students return to the classroom.
“I hope that schools follow suit,” Couser said. “Our kids need some sort of normalcy, because they have gone through enough as it is, and I am just hoping that we can get them back to it.”