Wimberley ISD board decides not to strike down mask rule — for now

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WIMBERLEY, Texas (KXAN) — A debate over masks at school has not yet ended for the Wimberley Independent School District.

The school board heard from parents, students and teachers at Monday night’s meeting about whether to keep their mask mandate in place or to make masks optional.

After about three hours of public comment and discussion, board members decided to reconsider the issue at their next regular meeting on April 19, when they will receive more input from their COVID-19 task force, including analyzing local positivity rates, virus variants in the community and any spike scenarios.

In the days leading up to spring break, several students across Wimberley ISD campuses showed up to school without their masks.

Earlier this month, the Texas Education Agency said school boards could decide their own mask rules.

Board members heard more than 100 written, submitted comments, read by WISD spokesperson Allen Bruggman.

Most submissions were in favor of striking down the school district’s mask rule and instead allowing each family to choose whether or not they want to wear one.

Those folks pointed to a decline in COVID-19 cases and the governor’s lifting of the statewide mask mandate two weeks ago, saying students and their families should also get a choice.

They also say masking has caused pain and discomfort to their kids.

“Ever since we’ve been forced to wear masks, I’ve had a significant increase in headaches, dizzy spells and overall discomfort, so I encourage you to vote in favor of making masks optional,” read one comment submitted by 7th grader Desmond Cross.

The CDC says wearing a mask does not raise the carbon dioxide level in the air you breathe. They also recommend almost everyone wear a mask, unless they have a specific medical condition where they can not.

Others say masking has helped keep the community safe, so far, and needs to stay until the end of the school year– including the Hays County epidemiologist, who also submitted a comment.

“One would think that our community would be able to bear the inconvenience of wearing a mask for a few more months in order to keep from killing other people. This is not Wimberley’s finest hour. We should be better than this,” wrote Dr. Steven Moore, a WISD parent.

The district says a teacher survey revealed a majority, “59.3%, said they weren’t comfortable with students not wearing a mask while 40.7% said they would be comfortable with that,” said Bruggman.

Mask enforcement change

School board members *did* strengthen the consequences disciplinary for students who don’t comply with the mask rule.

Their teacher will still ask them to wear a mask but instead of going to the nurse next, the student will be sent to the assistant principal, said Bruggman.

If there’s no medical reason for not wearing a mask, the student will be asked again to comply. If they still refuse, the assistant principal will call their parents will be called to pick up the student. If a parent can’t be reached, the student will be placed in in-school suspension for the rest of the day.

Bruggman said secondary campuses have dedicated in-school suspension rooms. He said technically if that happens, the student would miss their athletic period “which could disqualify them. It can be up to the coach though too if it’s just one missed period/practice.”

Previously the district said students who didn’t comply with the mask rule were spaced out in the library to continue school virtually for the day if their parents couldn’t pick them up. That wasn’t a formal disciplinary measure.

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