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Central Texas school districts plan to keep masks optional as some defy mandate ban

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Posted at 12:14 AM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 16:13:52-04

WACO, Texas — While some Texas school districts are deciding to turn against Governor Abbott's executive order banning mask mandates in schools, Central Texas districts seem to be following the state's guidelines.

Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth school districts have all implemented mask mandates in recent days. As of now, Temple, Killeen and Waco ISDs do not plan to add themselves to that list.

Masks will remain optional, but parents are split on the decision.

"It's such a simple solution that may not be perfect but it's better than nothing," said Midway ISD parent Heather White of mask mandates.

"Putting my child in a mask for eight hours a day for six months of the year is not healthy for him," said Copperas Cove ISD parent Eric Dominowski.

Waco ISD announced their COVID-19 safety protocols for the school year on Tuesday afternoon. The list includes encouraging masks in district buildings and encouraging eligible students and employees to get vaccinated.

Waco ISD will also conduct contact tracing and notify parents and staff members if they are considered close contacts of a positive case. These measures are both not required in Texas schools per new guidelines released by the Texas Education Agency, or TEA.

"We've been reviewing in detail not just the governor's order but also the guidance that we received from TEA late last Thursday and adjusting our protocols for the upcoming school year accordingly," said Waco ISD chief of staff, Kyle DeBeer.

The Texas State Teachers Association said the executive order from Abbott needs to be eliminated, given dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

"The biggest fear is that we're gonna have students get sick that wouldn't have gotten sick if we had more precautions," TSTA president Ovidia Molina said.

For now, in most schools, the decision will be left up to parents and students.

"It shouldn't be up to a school district to mandate anything for our children," Dominowski said. "They're not our children's doctor, they're not our physician, and really, us as parents know what's best for them."

"You never know what health risks families or individuals are dealing with, and that's why I wear a mask," White said. "It's to protect other people, it's not to protect myself."

This is all as the school year begins for some as soon as next week.