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Change to school mask rules fails to pass

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New rules at Elgin ISD that would have made masks optional failed to get enough votes at Monday night’s school board meeting, leaving the current rules in place.

First, Elgin ISD Superintendent Dr. Jodi Duron gave an update about the ongoing litigation about the school district’s mask mandate. In September, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced he would file lawsuits against several school districts that have enacted mask mandates, including Elgin ISD.

Elgin ISD was served with Paxton’s lawsuit on September 15, and Paxton filed a temporary restraining order in Bastrop County against Elgin ISD’s mask mandate, which was denied. The case was heard in Bastrop County on October 6, and the court did not grant the injunction requested by the state, leaving Elgin ISD to continue with its mask requirements. The attorney general has since appealed the judge’s ruling.

The proposed amended resolution would lift the mask mandate when Travis County is in a risk level stage of two or three out of five. Recently, Austin Public Health announced that the risk level in Travis County has been reduced from stage four to stage three.

Elgin ISD, the only school district in Bastrop County with a mask mandate, has the lowest ratio of COVID-19 cases to student and staff population since the beginning of August among the four districts. Between August 2 and October 15, 3.7% of Elgin ISD students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19, while Bastrop ISD, Smithville ISD and McDade ISD have had 6.7%, 13.8% and 9.1%, respectively.

However, another situation in which Duron requested the ability for Elgin ISD to return to required masks is if the schools see a spike in case numbers. The threshold would be 20 cases among all students and staff within a week. This is based on the peak of cases in Elgin ISD this semester, which was in the 20s in August and early September. Since then, the weekly number of cases have been decreasing, and over the past few weeks, the number of cases have been less than ten per week.

Even if the mask mandate would be lifted, Elgin ISD would still strongly recommend that students and staff continue to wear masks, especially for those who aren’t vaccinated or when social distancing cannot be maintained.

The Elgin ISD school board voted 3-3 to approve the resolution as written, meaning that the amended rules did not pass and the current rules are still in place.