The Waco Independent School District will be requiring face masks inside all schools and district buildings starting Monday.
The decision is based on the number of cases that have been reported since school started on Monday, reports from local health officials, and updated guidance from the Texas Education Agency which does not enforce mask provisions of GA-38. As of 4 p.m. Thursday, 55 people who have spent time at a Waco ISD campus or facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
“In my visits to schools this week, I was heartened to see many (but by no means all) of our students and employees voluntarily wearing masks,” said Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon. “Masks have repeatedly been shown to reduce the spread of the virus, and increasing the number of people wearing masks will make our schools a safer place in the midst of this pandemic.
We will continue to consult with medical experts and monitor both legal and public health developments. Right now, though, I believe that Waco ISD has to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
According to Kincannon, the last time these many positive cases were reported, in this short window of time, was at the height of the pandemic.
The decision does go against Gov. Abbott's executive order that restricts school districts from mask mandates. However, updated guidance from the TEA on Thursday, Aug. 19 announced that mask provisions of GA-38 are not being enforced pending ongoing court issues.
“The reports that we are hearing from health care leaders are too urgent to wait until there is a final resolution to the ongoing litigation,” Kincannon said. “I did not make this decision lightly, and we will continue to monitor legal developments. However, faced with the growing number of cases in our schools and our community, I felt that we had to act now.”
Waco ISD said in a release on Friday that it has already received some positive feedback on its decision to require masks from parents and staff.
“I’m sure this decision was not an easy one," said Marilissa Y., Bell’s Hill Elementary teacher. "Thank you for making it. I know you are doing the right thing. I applaud you for caring about our students. This is the best way we can protect those that can’t be vaccinated yet.”
One parent acknowledged the recent atmosphere surrounding mask mandates.
“We know navigating the legal, ethical, and political environments has not been easy this past year, but as new Waco ISD parents last year, we felt we could steadfastly rely on information and decisions you and the Waco ISD Board made and implemented," said Megan W. a Cedar Ridge Elementary School parent.