Eanes ISD will return to 100% in-person learning Aug. 18 for the 2021-22 school year without mandated face masks, Superintendent Tom Leonard said in a July 26 letter to the community.
“A year later, after an incredible amount of resilience, learning, pivoting and yes, successfully operating schools, we plan to begin the 2021-22 school year as we would pre-pandemic,” Leonard wrote.
At this time, he said options for Texas school districts have been significantly limited by an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott. Issued in May, Executive Order GA-36 prevents government entities, including school districts, from enacting mask mandates. This order pertains to students, staff members, parents and campus visitors. As a result, Leonard said EISD cannot legally require masks or restrict activities on campus such as extracurricular programs, though individuals may continue to wear a mask if desired.
“While the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] and American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend individuals 2 years old and older who are not fully vaccinated continue to wear masks indoors, Eanes ISD does not have the legal authority to enforce that requirement,” Leonard wrote.
Additionally, the district will not provide a remote learning option for students beyond its limited homebound instruction option for students with significant medical conditions. The inability to provide a more robust learning option is due to a lack of state funding, Leonard said.
Several districts statewide called off plans for a virtual learning option after the Texas Legislature ended May 31 without final approval of House Bill 1468, which would have provided funding toward virtual learners. While nearby districts including Round Rock ISD have announced plans for a virtual program, they run the risk of losing attendance-based state funding.
On campus, EISD will continue to ask parents and staff to report a confirmed positive coronavirus case to the district. However, the district will discontinue its previous COVID-19 dashboard, which publicly disclosed the number of confirmed cases per campus, according to the district’s updated safety protocols.
Another considerable change includes the end of mandated quarantines for students and staff as a result of a coronavirus case exposure. Still, notifications will be distributed to those who were in a classroom where a student or staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, those who are symptomatic or positive for the coronavirus should refrain from attending school and isolate based on CDC guidelines.
Per the district’s protocols, frequent cleaning and sanitation efforts will be continued, including recent upgrades to campus ventilation systems. EISD will also supply students or staff with personal protective equipment upon request.
Leonard said the district will continue to monitor local health conditions closely as changes are occurring on a daily basis. Leonard and several other area superintendents meet weekly with Austin Public Health, city and county officials.
EISD community members can refer to the newly updated back to school website for more information regarding the 2021-22 school year.