LEANDER, Texas - Leander Independent School District's mask mandate will stay in place, at least for now. The decision by the school board late Monday night followed heated testimony by parents.
Just after 11 p.m. Monday, the Board of Trustees approved a resolution to extend the mask requirement through September 9th. That came after a motion to get rid of the mask mandate fell short.
Monday night’s meeting followed a demonstration Monday morning by parents in favor of the mask mandate, who argued it’s critical given the soaring number of COVID cases in the district. Last Wednesday, parents opposed to mask requirements held a protest of their own, saying the rule infringes on their and their children’s personal freedoms.
Last night, those strong opinions came to a head in the board meeting.
"Nowhere do you get to decide what I put on my child, regarding COVID especially," said one parent. "Parents get the choice. Nobody is saying that parents cannot send their kids with masks but you get the choice."
"Our hospitals are full. Our doctors and our nurses are overwhelmed and they’re crying out for our help, and we know how to help them. Masks are simple, they are cheap, they are effective," said another parent.
At one point, one parent called on board members to be fired. "Do you like your job? Do you like your job? Because guess what? You’re going to be fired. How about that? You’re going to be fired."
Superintendent Dr. Bruce Gearing defended the board’s decision, saying, "Every mask that we have in place now that was not in place before is an additional mitigation that will help to keep our students, our staff, and our community safe."
Gearing, who was met with chants of "shame on Gearing," said the mandate is part of the district’s plan to stay open while keeping everyone safe.
"No matter what we do, it will not be right for somebody and will likely violate some order," said Gearing. "And I believe we should have the ability to make decisions that affect our community at this point in time."
School started in Leander on August 12th, and at this point district officials are reporting more than 200 active COVID cases, and more than 380 total cases.
Parents do have an option to opt their children out of the mask mandate, with no questions asked. About 10% of students, or nearly 4,000 students, have been opted out so far. There is a virtual learning option in Leander as well, but just a little under 4% of students are taking part. Parents on both sides of the mask issue said Monday night it’s important for them to have their children learning in person.
In addition to extending the mask mandate, Monday night trustees also approved eight COVID leave days for staff who test positive for the virus. The school board announced it will meet again on September 9th to decide whether to continue the mask mandate beyond that date.
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