Face coverings will be optional on Marble Falls Independent School District campuses starting Wednesday, May 12, with the exception of some large events. The board of trustees voted to waive mask requirements during a special meeting Tuesday, May 11.
While face coverings will not be required for the remaining 12 days of the school year, KN95 masks will be given to students and staff upon request.
The district has recently seen a significant decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases, including a report of no new cases in the district during the week of May 3, Superintendent Chris Allen said. Also, 70 percent of district staff have received COVID-19 vaccinations.
“When I’m asked why we’re still wearing masks, I am finding it more and more difficult to point to data that suggests we should not at least have a conversation about lifting some of the restrictions,” Allen told trustees at the meeting.
Previously, the board voted to make masks optional in outdoor spaces.
During the meeting, Allen expressed concerns shared by members of the administration about removing masks in all school environments.
Making masks optional will not change mandatory quarantine periods for individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and those who come into close contact with them. If students test positive during the next two weeks, they could miss upcoming events, such as graduation, Allen explained.
The original recommendation by school administration was to make masks optional everywhere but classrooms and school buses until May 31. After that, masks would be optional in all school environments, except for at some large events where directors determined it safer to remain masked.
Board member Alex Payson moved to pass the original motion after voicing his concerns about removing masks before the end of state testing.
“While there’s a large portion who are ready to take the masks off today, there’s also a large portion of students who feel more comfortable in class with masks on, and if they’re taking a STAAR test, I don’t want to mess with those kids’ psychology,” Payson said.
The motion was seconded by board member Mandy McCary; however, it did not carry as remaining board members voiced opposition to the continuation of the mask requirement.
Trustee Gary Boshears made a second motion stating that masks would be optional on buses and in classrooms as well as other places on campus.
“If we admit that the data shows it’s an off chance that anybody is going to miss anything … I would personally like to see it optional everywhere starting May 12,” Boshears said.
That motion was approved by a 5-2 vote with Payson and McCary voting against.