Carroll ISD’s current health guidelines will remain in place as Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate comes to an end March 10.

The board of trustees was given recommendations to maintain current health and safety protocols in place across all campuses. The board took no action on the recommendation, meaning it will remain in place for the time being. Trustees will discuss the issue again later this month.

According to district lead nurse Karen Flexer, the districtwide mask mandate has been key in keeping schools open and the district’s COVID-19 Response Team does not recommend making any changes to the health and safety protocols already in place.

“Our representatives along with an epidemiologist strongly suggest and recommend masking in spite of the lifted COVID[-19] mask orders,” she said to the board of trustees. “[The epidemiologist] stated ‘please do not make any changes to your protocols. What you're doing is working.’”

Current health and safety protocols limit certain gatherings including nonessential field trips, rentals of CISD sites by non-CISD personnel, as well as any event that involves food. This includes banquets and some indoor celebrations. Masks are required at all times inside school campuses and a distance of 6 feet is being maintained.

“I can't say enough about what's been done from the fall to this point to mitigate any type of COVID[-19] exposure for our kids,” Superintendent Lane Ledbetter said. “I don't think it would be prudent in this situation to change immediately what we're doing and what we're recommending for our students just to do away with the masks at this time.”

The district’s COVID-19 Response Team will meet again April 1 to reassess the situation and determine if new recommendations must be made to the board of trustees.

The Texas Education Agency announced March 4 that masks are still required while inside a school facility. However, individuals school districts have the authority to decide whether the mask mandate will be upheld.

As the state of Texas prepares to reopen, many teachers in CISD have expressed concerns about the lifted mask mandate.

In a districtwide employee survey of which 81% of all CISD staff responded, 73% said they want the health and safety protocols already in place to remain. Only 19.6% responded they wanted to see some change.

When asked about visitors on campus wearing a face covering, 75.6% of surveyed employees said they want that guideline to remain in place.

“I believe we have stayed very healthy as a district, and our programs have the amount of students that want to come in-person because we are masked,” Flexer said. “We hear from families that they are thankful that we’re masked, and that eases them to come in person, which we believe is very good for the students.”

As of March 8, the district’s COVID-19 dashboard recorded 32 active student cases and four active staff cases.

While COVID-19 case counts have remained low across the district, the response team shared that only 19.2% of all district employees have received both COVID-19 vaccine doses and only 9.7% have received one dose under the 1B category. Throughout the district, 26.8% of all employees have registered for the vaccine but await an appointment still.

On March 3, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced educators and child care workers now qualified as a priority group for the vaccine. CISD announced during its March 8 board meeting that the district is working to set up an on-site vaccine clinic to hopefully be operational after spring break.

“We have been searching and looking for providers that would help us vaccinate our staff like we usually do every fall with a flu shot clinic,” Flexer said.

So far, the district has heard back from Dr. Niraj Mehta as well as Methodist Southlake Hospital as potential providers.

CISD is anticipating receiving vaccines as early as March 17, with a sign-up link for employees to be out before spring break.