Board members approved the coronavirus-related resolution in a 5-2 vote with Aaron Johnson and Elexis Grimes in dissent.
Trustees also unanimously approved eight days of coronavirus leave for staff members who test positive. This will provide paid leave for staff members retroactively from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2021 after a previous COVID-19 paid leave resolution expired earlier this year.
The mask mandate will be revisited Sept. 9 at the regular board meeting. The mandate will expire at midnight if not extended by the board.
Trustees approved a resolution to continue requiring masks in schools through Sept. 9. The Board will consider the health protocol again in their scheduled meeting that evening.
— Leander ISD (@LeanderISD) August 24, 2021
The original temporary mask requirement included an option for parents or guardians to opt their students out of the temporary mask requirement. Gearing said about 3,900 students, or 10%, of all LISD students had opted out.
The district reported 132 positive cases Aug. 23, including 118 students and 14 staff members. Since Aug. 5, there have been 383 total reported cases, according to the district’s online dashboard.
Gearing said there have been seven identified COVID-19 clusters in elementary schools, one cluster at a middle school and clusters at two high schools. According to the district, it is up to local health departments to close classrooms. Campuses with the highest numbers of reported cases, as of Aug. 23, are Glenn High (29), Leander High (26), Bagdad Elementary (20), Whitestone Elementary (19) and Cedar Park High (19) schools.
Board member Jim MacKay said during the meeting that at least three board members were initially unaware of the opt-out form from the district. MacKay said the conversation held Aug. 23 should have happened before a mask mandate was called. He also said this is not about politics but choosing what is in the best interest for the greatest number of children.
“Everybody in our community has an opinion. Everybody in our community wants us to do the right thing,” MacKay said. “We do the right thing by some — we don’t do the right thing by others.”
There were 72 people who registered to speak at the special-called meeting. Parents and community members voiced opinions in favor of and in opposition to the mask requirement.
During the meeting, there was a motion from Trustee Johnson to remove the temporary mask requirement, but the motion failed. Johnson said that though there is a temporary restraining order against Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates, that it didn't invalidate the order either. Johnson said he recommended following Abbott’s order until the Texas Supreme Court court rules on the matter.
On Aug. 19, the Texas Supreme Court left in place a temporary restraining order issued by Jan Soifer, Travis County District Court Judge, which blocked Gov. Abbott’s mask mandate ban.
“It creates a moment where government entities can entertain a mask mandate, but with the understanding that that opportunity — that window could go away very suddenly and unexpectedly,” Johnson said.
The approved board resolution was to address health and safety due to the COVID pandemic. The resolution included three parts:
- The board of trustees requests and authorize the superintendent to implement health and safety measures to address the potential danger of COVID-19 including and not limited to masking requirements.
- The board of trustees expects the administration to take an approach guided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and state health authorities
- The board of trustees requests that the administration provide information to the board and to the Leander ISD regularly around local health data and the impact of COVID-19 on Leander ISD schools to respond effectively to the needs of students, staff and families.
Leander ISD trustees will next meet Aug. 26 for its regular meeting.