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Bell County parents pushing local school district to make decision on mask mandates

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Posted at 7:57 AM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 13:40:42-04

BELL COUNTY — Since no vaccine exists for children, a debate is raging across the country's schools.

More than 50 school districts and 10 counties in Texas have imposed mandates, defying Abbott’s executive order.

Now, some parents in Bell County want local districts to make a decision.

On one side, parents in Killeen say masks are the only way to keep kids safe. On the other side, parents say wearing a mask should always be a personal choice.

On Tuesday, those for and against held signs and shared personal stories and voiced their opinions on the possibility of Killeen ISD issuing a mask mandate.

“Nothing short of this will work. Everyone using this in the schools,” said Irene Andrews with Safe Schools for All Texas.

“By all means, we support the right to protect their child and do what they feel is best for them but by the same token, we want that same rate," Killeen parent Eric Dominowski said. "We wanna be able to take care of our kids how we feel is best.”

This rally is the third protest over masks outside district headquarters since school started a week ago. It’s not just Killeen, but Belton ISD parents are also speaking out.

“I’m being forced to homeschool my children and fortunate that I can do that, but there are so many that can’t afford to do that,” Belton parent Julie Bonneau said.

Artainia Dove, a cancer survivor with kids in both Belton and Killeen ISD, said having no mask mandate or virtual learning makes her feel helpless.

“To know that it’s a virus out there and you have to send your kids to school regardless of what type of conditions they have or even if they’re perfectly healthy," Dove said. "That is life-threatening to me."

The Texas Supreme Court ruled last week that districts can proceed with mask mandates for now while the legality of the Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban is argued in appellate court.

According to KISD:

The Killeen ISD Board of Trustees did not make any changes to the Public Health Guide that would go against Executive Order 38 by the Governor. However, employees and students that attend or travel to campuses on Fort Hood, must continue to wear a face-covering due to the Department of Defense General Order mandating masks on military installations.

The Board of Trustees voted to approve the hiring of a Chief Medical Officer. The job will be posted this week.

A statement from Belton ISD Executive Director Of Communications and Community Engagement Elizabeth Cox:

Belton ISD is closely monitoring the legal proceedings related to the Governor’s Executive Order GA-38. We take every decision regarding COVID mitigation strategies seriously — including following orders and directives from our elected officials.

Belton ISD highly recommends the use of a mask. Ultimately, we want to encourage our students, staff and families to each do their part to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Absences will be excused if our staff is made aware that the student is absent because of a COVID-19 quarantine or positive test result. While Belton ISD does not have a virtual learning option available at this time, all students have been issued a device and are encouraged to be in touch with their teachers to arrange to receive schoolwork while they are absent.