Children in the Eanes ISD who arrive to school campus without the intention of wearing a face mask may be sequestered away from the general population of students as early as Friday, following a discussion by school trustees that resulted in an unanimous recommendation for mask mandate enforcement.
In doing so, Eanes ISD trustees said the district needs to follow the law as defined by current Travis County orders regarding the wearing of masks and also said action is needed to keep kids in school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Referred to as “recommendation B,” Eanes ISD Superintendent Tom Leonard said he offered it because he would rather have students in an alternative learning environment than suspend students who do not comply with the district's current mask policy, which he said is not a mandate unless it has enforcement. He said he also wants to work toward avoiding situations where students might be left unsupervised, such as not allowing a student to board a school bus.
“So you can do what some districts do–if the child walks up the door, you don't let them in. You can do that, “ Leonard said. “That becomes problematic over time. It puts the kid in a really tough position.”
Leonard said he will be meeting with the principals of the Eanes campuses with the idea that alternative locations for students who do not wear masks could be available as early as Friday. Accommodations will be made for special circumstances, such as medical conditions or special learning circumstances, he said.
In recommending the enforcement of the Eanes ISD mask mandate, Eanes ISD Vice President James Spradley said current court challenges between state and county officials could continue to change what is required regarding the wearing of face masks.
“As the law changes, I will strongly advocate to follow the law,” Spradley said.
Other trustees said they want the mask mandate to be a consistent policy that prevents the school district from facing the shutdown of school campuses.
“This is not a political issue. This is a public health issue,” said Eanes trustee Ellen Balthazar. “Effective and universal masking is really the superpower of all the mitigation effects we can do in our schools.”
Several trustees said they were concerned about the rising number of COVID cases resulting from the transmission of the delta variant.
"Just mask up so we can keep our kids in school," said trustee Laura Clark.
Under current Travis County orders, masks must be worn on all city and county premises, including public schools. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are seeking to overturn the county's order, stating the need for a consistent, statewide policy on the wearing of masks.