Richardson ISD to make masks optional for junior high and high school students, staff

Person.
Superintendent Jeannie Stone announced the district would make masks "encouraged" for students and staff at junior highs, high schools and district office buildings. (Screenshot courtesy Richardson ISD)

Superintendent Jeannie Stone announced the district would make masks "encouraged" for students and staff at junior highs, high schools and district office buildings. (Screenshot courtesy Richardson ISD)

Beginning Nov. 3, Richardson ISD will make masks optional for students and staff at junior highs, high schools and the district’s central office buildings.

Superintendent Jeannie Stone announced the district was changing its mask policy to make them “encouraged” in a video uploaded to the RISD YouTube page Oct. 28.

“We will continue to regularly assess the remaining mask requirement at elementary [schools], and I'm hopeful of being able to move quickly on that front as a vaccine for our younger students becomes available,” Stone said. “We are in a positive and very encouraging place right now, and we all hope the trends continue in the right direction.”

RISD put a mask mandate in place for all students and staff in the district Aug. 17. At the time, Stone said the decision was meant to protect students, specifically those who are too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“A vaccine is widely expected to be approved for children ages 5 through 11 in the coming days,” Stone said in the Oct. 28 video.


On Oct. 25, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech announced a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee recommended emergency use authorization for the companies' COVID-19 vaccination to those ages 5-11. However, the FDA had not yet authorized the vaccine's use for those ages 5-11 as of Oct. 29.

“This vaccine would come in a two-dose sequence three weeks apart,” Stone said. “Our staff is working on plans to schedule vaccine opportunities here in the district for RISD elementary families soon after formal approval is announced. If all goes as expected, elementary students ages 5 through 11 could be fully vaccinated by winter break.”

The change in the district’s mask policy came after RISD reviewed the latest metrics related to positive cases, vaccine rates, virus transmission countywide and by zip code, and the strain on the local health care system, Stone said.

“Positive cases in RISD have dropped dramatically since our peak levels in late August and early September,” she said. “In fact, as of today, cases were one-seventh the level we experienced at our peak. As concerning as the numbers were for the first month of school, we are very optimistic by the downward trend.”

The district’s COVID-19 dashboard, which was last updated Oct. 28, shows 1,326 students and 254 employees have been diagnosed since Aug. 2. Of cases confirmed in RISD, 39 students and six employees still had the virus as of Oct. 28. Those totals amount to 0.1% of district students and 0.08% of staff members, according to the dashboard.

“If things reverse, and an outbreak should occur with substantial transmission at school or in a classroom, masks can be revisited on a temporary classroom-by-classroom basis as a mitigation tool if it becomes needed,” Stone said.
By William C. Wadsack

Senior Reporter, Plano/Richardson

William joined Community Impact Newspaper in December 2019. He previously served as managing editor of several daily and weekly publications in North Texas and his native state of Louisiana.



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