This story was updated to include additional comments from Lake Travis ISD officials.
Lake Travis ISD trustees changed its on-campus mask requirements during a May 19 meeting. The current policy has been in effect since in-person classes reconvened during the coronavirus pandemic last fall.
Effectively immediately, face coverings will be optional for students, staff and visitors when outdoors on LTISD property. The use of masks will also become optional indoors as of 12:01 a.m., May 24.
The decision passed 5-2 with trustees Lauren White and Phillip Davis opposed.
The decision follows a May 18 executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott which prohibits ISDs from imposing mask requirements after June 4.
The 2020-21 school year will conclude on May 28 for LTISD students, meaning face coverings will not be required during the last week of classes. Trustees’ decision will not impact any additional district COVID-19 protocols.
Trustee Jessica Putonti said she has spent the last few days speaking with teachers and LTISD parents, many of which expressed a desire to be mask free for the last week of school.
“I understand that we’ve come so far and it's hard to institute that change now, but I feel like it would be really nice to give these kids just a little normalcy in their last week,” she said.
The adjustment will also impact the district’s graduation ceremony, which is expected to take place May 29 outdoors, weather permitting.
Superintendent Paul Norton said LTISD administration has been in frequent contact with campus principals and teachers regarding the mask policy. While some teachers are in favor of repealing the mask mandate, Norton said overall principals would prefer to keep the requirements in place for the last seven days so as not to disrupt the end of the school year.
Board Vice President Kim Flasch noted the district is legally required to mandate a temporary quarantine if a student came in close contact with an individual who later tested positive for COVID-19. This could impact a student’s ability to attend end-of-year events, including graduation. Flasch said her fear is that seniors who have preserved through the challenging school year could miss their graduation ceremony if a COVID-19 case emerged on campus.
“To potentially put a child in that situation to no fault of their own really makes me pause on lifting the mandate prior to next Friday night,” Flasch said.
Additionally, parents and guardians still have the option to transition their child to remote learning if desired.
Trustee William Beard said he was in favor of removing the mandate due to the high level of vaccination in the Lake Travis region.
Moving forward, the district will also host an optional vaccine clinic May 20 for students and families age 12 and older. Appointments for that clinic filled quickly, according to Human Resources Director Evalene Murphy, who said there is opportunity to host a second event.
Following the meeting, LTISD released a statement saying the decision to modify the existing mask policy was not made lightly but was based on declining COVID-19 cases and vaccine availability.