The Elgin ISD school board voted unanimously to require masks for students, staff and visitors on district property after a discussion of the current COVID-19 surge, hearing from citizens and consultation with legal counsel during a special meeting on Monday evening, August 30.
The special meeting on Monday evening began with a presentation from Dr. Desmar Walkes, the former health authority for Bastrop County and current medical director for the City of Austin, about the COVID-19 situation in Bastrop and Travis counties and how it affects schools and school-aged children. Due to the delta variant of the virus, Texas is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases exceeding the wave at the beginning of this year, and Walkes encouraged the use of masks to mitigate the spread of the virus. Currently, vaccines that protect against severe COVID-19 are not available to children under the age of 12, and hospitals are seeing children sick with COVID-19.
Next, several people spoke about the mask mandate during the public comment portion of the hearing. Several people spoke against the requirement of masks at school, while two people submitted comments in support of requiring masks.
The school board then went into executive session to discuss the resolution on the agenda for about two and a half hours. When they emerged from executive session at around 10 p.m., they discussed the mask mandate and addressed some of the concerns raised by the public comment speakers who were against the mask requirement. The school board explained that, due to the temporary restraining orders against the governor’s executive order banning mask mandates, Elgin ISD is not breaking the law at this time by requiring masks, and the school district will continue to monitor the legal situation.
The motion for adopting the mask mandate resolution passed unanimously. The entire resolution will be posted on the Elgin ISD website, www.elginisd.net, but it reads in part:
“The board finds a substantial public purpose exists in protecting the health and safety of its students, staff and community, and ensuring that the school and community are prepared to the fullest extent possible, to protect the health and safety of students, staff and community, in light of COVID-19; the Board of Trustees, as a function of their governance responsibilities and local control as a political subdivision, authorizes the superintendent and designee to implement a mask/face covering mandate in the school district buildings to further the goal of this resolution, and protect the health and safety of district students, families and staff within the following parameters: all students, employees, volunteers, parents and visitors are required to wear a face covering that fits snugly over the individual’s nose and mouth, that may include commercially-produced or homemade fabric masks, surgical masks, scarves, bandanas, handkerchiefs, gaiters, etc, while inside district buildings or district vehicles, including vehicles contracted to provide transportation services for the district. In lieu of a face covering, individuals may wear a face shield.
“Such face coverings may be removed by individuals participating in strenuous physical activities while inside district gymnasiums, weight rooms and similar locations inside district buildings in which such activities are permitted, and such face coverings may be removed by individuals participating in band activities that require individuals to use their mouths to play instruments, while in district buildings.
“This mandate will be reassessed at the September regular board meeting to review legal related to mass mandates, including litigation regarding such mandates. The superintendent will develop procedures for individuals to seek exemptions to this mandate due to disabilities, which will require appropriate certification from a healthcare professional, and will develop guidelines to enforce the mandate for students, staff and all persons subject to the mandate, and the Board of Trustees delegates to the superintendent all authority to develop administrative regulations and guidelines to implement this mandate.”
Read more about Monday night's meeting and Elgin ISD's mask mandate in next week's edition of the Elgin Courier.