Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees votes to approve mask matrix

The Sept. 22 meeting of the RRISD Board of Trustees was moved to the Raymond E. Hartfield Performing Arts Center to accommodate a larger audience. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Sept. 22 meeting of the RRISD Board of Trustees was moved to the Raymond E. Hartfield Performing Arts Center to accommodate a larger audience. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Sept. 22 meeting of the RRISD Board of Trustees was moved to the Raymond E. Hartfield Performing Arts Center to accommodate a larger audience. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees met Sept. 22 to discuss and consider action for a mask matrix recommended by Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez, which it voted to approve 5-2.

The two "no" votes for the mask matrix came from places 2 and 7 trustees Mary Bone and Danielle Weston.

Motion language to approve the measure directed district staff to "make future decisions regarding masks, in accordance with the matrix presented."

The matrix ties mask guidelines to COVID-19 risk stages established by local public health authorities.

The RRISD temporary mask mandate expired Sept. 17, but a district email shared with parents Sept. 16 asked that mask wearing continue on campuses until the board could establish replacement procedures.


Another Sept. 16 district email stated that a temporary restraining order from Williamson County intended to prohibit the district from enforcing a mask mandate had been signed by a county judge.

However, the district announced Sept. 17 that the TRO had been placed on hold, and masks would continue to be worn when six feet of social distance could not be maintained.

Updated Texas Education Agency Public Health Guidance from Sept. 17 states school districts cannot enforce mask mandates and be in compliance with Texas Governor Greg Abbott's executive order GA-38. However, the guidance document also states that a district should consult with local public health authorities and legal counsel before implementing a mask mandate.

Interim General Counsel Jenny Wells on Sept. 22 informed the district that the current status of the TEA guidance is the same as it was Aug. 18, when the district approved the first iteration of its mask mandate.

The guidance was updated Aug. 19 to reflect that GA-38 was not being enforced by the TEA. The Department of Education is currently investigating the TEA over the update regarding GA-38, Wells said.

During public comment on the mask matrix at the Sept. 22 meeting, speakers fell firmly into two camps—either strongly in favor of or opposed to any kind of mandate.

Multiple speakers referenced the previous board meeting on Sept. 14, where room capacity was limited to allow for social distancing, as Williamson and Travis Counties had both reported high levels of COVID-19 cases at the time.

An overflow area was provided in the cafeteria of Round Rock High School, where the meeting was being live streamed.

The meeting was adjourned early due to disruptions from audience members who took issue with limiting the meeting room's capacity.

Some attendees were removed from the meeting and later arrested by the Williamson County Sheriff's Office Sept. 17 on charges of hindering proceedings by disorderly conduct, according to county records, which also state they were released Sept. 18.

At the Sept. 22 meeting, Round Rock High School senior Jacob Lozano said he had to quarantine over the weekend because he'd been identified as having a close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 at school. Lozano asked the board to consider a more effective and more strongly enforced mask mandate.

"I was pretty upset about it because my sister could have been at risk. She's 8 years old. She can't even get the vaccine yet," Lozano said. "I don't really want to put her in danger due to someone else's selfishness."

Lilly Barton, an RRISD eighth grader, spoke agains a mask mandate, reading a poem she had written.

"The words of Governor Abbott announced any mask mandating will be renounced," Barton said. "Why should I follow the rules but not you? Don't you know kids are people too? Do you think it's comfortable, because it's not. You believe it's protecting us, what proof have you got?"
By Brooke Sjoberg
Brooke Sjoberg is the Round Rock reporter for the Round Rock and Pflugerville/Hutto editions of Community Impact Newspaper. She worked for The Gonzales Inquirer, The Daily Texan and The Daily Dot among other publications before coming to Community Impact. Brooke is from Seguin, TX and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2020. Her last name is pronounced Show-burg.


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