Johnson City ISD lifts mask rules after 4-3 school board vote
JOHNSON CITY, Texas - Wednesday, Johnson City Independent School District lifted its mask rules.
The change was intentionally made on the same day Texas Governor Greg Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate, leaving mask rules up to individual school districts.
Monday night, a divided Johnson City School Board voted 4-3 to make the change.
"It’s a very decisive topic, it’s both political and it’s personal and people see it differently," said Superintendent Richard Kolek.
In a recent survey, Kolek says 49 percent of district employees wanted to modify or eliminate the mask mandate, 51 percent did not.
Wednesday, LBJ Elementary Principal Amanda Haley estimated 25 percent of her students and staff continued to wear masks, 75 percent did not.
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Blanco County EMS is coordinating vaccine distribution in the county. Chief Ben Oakley says Wednesday was also the first day school employees and staff were able to get vaccinated, having scheduled appointments last week.
Oakley said just six school employees were vaccinated Wednesday, five with Johnson City ISD, one with Blanco ISD. Oakley says school nurses will vaccinate employees and staff onsite on March 22 at Johnson City ISD, and March 25 at Blanco ISD.
Kolek says Johnson City ISD currently has no known COVID-19 cases but pointed out that the district saw a large spike after Christmas Break.
"That’s why the governor's order just comes at a terrible time for school districts because it’s right before spring break. So, we’re gonna go off a week again so coming back. You know, are we gonna see that same type of spike again? I would have rather make this decision nine weeks later when schools out." he said.
Kolek admits there are many questions about what will happen during the next nine weeks. What accommodations, if any, will be made for medically vulnerable employees remains up in the air. Students can only utilize remote learning if they have a medical exemption. Haley says the opt-in period for medical exemptions has closed, it is unclear if it will re-open. Kolek says he has a meeting with district administrators this week, adding that they are "putting a plan together."