At Tuesday night’s Eanes ISD Board meeting, Trustees were provided an update on the current state of litigation regarding masks in schools and were able to give input regarding current COVID-19 protocols. The Trustees affirmed their commitment to follow laws currently in effect in our jurisdiction. At this time, the Travis County Order based on Austin Public Health regulations is in effect for all of Eanes ISD. Those orders require mandating masks inside our facilities. The Travis County Order does allow for some district administration discretion. In Eanes ISD, this includes outdoor activities, outdoor physical education, band, extracurriculars, for children with special needs, and while eating/drinking. Other than those exceptions, the wearing of masks, per Travis County, must be enforced by our school district.
The District is aware the Texas Supreme Court took action this morning in a case involving Gov. Abbott and the City of San Antonio and Bexar County. In that action, the Supreme Court granted Gov. Abbott's request to pause a Temporary Injunction issued against him in San Antonio/Bexar County. At this time, in Travis County, the health orders requiring masks remain the current law but we are closely monitoring legal developments.
Trustees discussed several COVID-19 protocols Tuesday night, including student mask mandate enforcement options to provide direction to the administration. Our objective over the last 18 months has been to keep our schools safe and sustain in-person learning. Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommend in-person learning and the wearing of masks. This is our best path to sustaining in-person education for all. Eanes ISD administrators are now responsible for ensuring the mask requirement is fulfilled in a viable manner supported by current court and health orders and Texas law.
To view the presentation made to the Board, click here.
This is not new. During the 2020-21 school year, all students and staff were required to wear masks while indoors, including buses. Eanes ISD students did an exceptional job complying with the mask mandate last year and we are confident they will do so this school year. This week, our staff made the transition to masks seamlessly; beginning tomorrow, our students will too.
Return to Mask Requirement
In compliance with the Travis County Order, based on Austin Public Health regulations, beginning Friday, Aug. 27, all students inside Eanes ISD facilities or on buses must wear masks. Campus administrators will communicate the requirement to students today before dismissal.
As required by the Travis County Order, the District has established masks as part of required health and safety rules. Beginning Friday, Aug. 27, if a student does not wear a mask indoors on school property (including buses), campus staff and administrators will begin to address this in various ways, including providing and offering masks to students, reminders about wearing masks, addressing the issue confidentially, and having conversations with families. If such approaches are unsuccessful in changing the behavior, the student will be assigned to a location within the building where he or she will be supervised and provided assignments. These locations determined at the campus level could be a classroom, office and/or a library or commons location.
Students who do not wear a mask when indoors on school property (including buses) will be in violation of the Student Code of Conduct.
Rather than suspending a student out of school, our Board direction is to meet the student’s needs as effectively as possible by utilizing an on-campus in-person option. Per the Texas Education Agency (TEA), this approach is considered an In-School Suspension (ISS), which is a disciplinary consequence and must be noted as such in Skyward.
We acknowledge children under the age of 12 do not currently have access to the COVID-19 vaccine and our implementation is designed with that in mind.
Students at the elementary level (grades K-5) who do not wear a mask will be assigned to a designated location for supervision and learning. These students will participate in alternative recess and outdoor activities. Lunch will be provided separately from the student body; students may purchase or bring lunches. These students may also forfeit their access to transportation.
Students at the secondary level (grades 6-12) who do not wear a mask will be assigned to a designated location for supervision and learning. These students may be allowed to participate in instructional or extra-curricular activities where masks are not required. Lunch options will be determined based on the number of students. These students may also forfeit their access to transportation.
Working in Partnership
We are aware of the strong emotions connected to mandating masks. Again, we are aware students younger than age 12 are currently unable to be vaccinated. Our goal is to provide a safe, stable educational environment for all students so they can continue uninterrupted in-person learning.
Please be mindful, all Eanes ISD staff are required to support and enforce the mask mandate until conditions subside or any litigation at the state or federal level changes the situation. We implore everyone to exercise cooperation and grace towards all Eanes ISD employees as they work to keep our campuses as safe as possible for all. Thank you.