The Fort Bend ISD board of trustees approved a dress code making face masks optional ahead of the 2021-22 school year, which begins Aug. 11. This comes as medical professionals and officials in Fort Bend County warn of a fourth wave of the coronavirus spurred on by the delta variant.

The dress code was included as part of the 2021-22 student code of conduct, which the board unanimously approved during its Aug. 4 special meeting.

The dress code includes language about Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order, which prohibited districts and other government agencies from mandating masks.

While the adopted policy says face coverings are a personal choice, it states that masks protect both the wearer and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

District officials said language in the dress code will be updated to include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals wear masks in schools.

“This is something that ... we can amend should changes be warranted in the future,” board President Dave Rosenthal said of the policy.

Seven parents and FBISD community members spoke at the meeting against the adoption of the dress code. They encouraged the district to think creatively about the problem, suggesting kids who will be wearing masks be put in classrooms together, incentivizing mask wearing among teachers, and pushing back against or defying the governor’s order altogether.

“I trust you—I want to trust you—to come up with solutions to keep our kids safe and healthy,” Angie Wierzbicki said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “I urge you, however, to appeal to Gov. Abbott, and if your appeals fall on deaf ears—as I imagine they might—just do it. Initiate universal masking in the district. Do the right thing.”

Sam Rubbico, who also spoke during public comment, said he was not opposed to offering virtual learning or putting children who wear masks in one classroom together, but said mask mandates should not be imposed.

“Why try to impose on others, do they impose on you?” Rubbico said.

Acting Superintendent Diana Sayavedra said the administration has heard parents’ concerns. She also said she was meeting with area superintendents Aug. 5 prior to a statewide superintendents' call with Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, in which districts may receive additional information.

“In addition to that, we will be reviewing all of our data that we know is coming out from the county and will continue to apprise the board of this information so that we can determine whether any other decisions need to be made,” Sayavedra said.

Houston ISD’s Superintendent Millard House II said he will propose a mask mandate for the district’s board to consider next week.

Read the approved 2021-22 student code of conduct below.