Parents and community members maxed out the Hays CISD board meeting Aug. 23 to express their opinions about Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra’s recent mask mandate.

With just over 40 speakers, only a minute was allotted to each of them to share their thoughts which ranged from what each person owes to their neighbors and community members to securing their personal freedoms and bodily autonomy.

“I’m really happy to see that some of you are masked up and some of you are without masks, and that’s a choice that you get,” said teacher and Hays Educators Association president Carla Perez. “I give my kids the same choice.”

However, parents who said they are working as health care professionals pointed toward the increase in COVID-19 cases and the low availability of intensive care unit beds in the region.

“Our hospitals are struggling to keep up with the more contagious Delta variant," a speaker whose identity could not be confirmed said at the meeting. "On top of that, we have a reduction in vaccine efficacy over time. This reality came fast and hard to many parents, it’s time to mask up and slow the spread again. People will have to decide who’s worth saving and who’s not ... that’s what nightmares are made of.”

While some parents asked the board to keep and enforce a mask mandate, some threatened to pull their children from district citing that, as parents, they know their children best and just want what is best for them.

One speaker who said he was a father of a student became actively involved in the mask mandate conversation and began meeting with people who don’t agree with him and his views.

“They care about their kids just like I care about my kids. We think about things differently and that’s OK, the speaker said. Ultimately, y’all have to make a decision and the voters will hold you accountable for it,” he said, addressing the board.

Upon completion of the public forum, Superintendent Eric Wright acknowledged that there are two polarized sides to this argument and that the science can be argued both ways but, ultimately, people can and will make the right decision for themselves.

Moving forward, Wright stated that the district will go back to contact tracing of positive COVID-19 cases, at the minimum, and can recommend quarantine, but it is optional.