UPDATE: Meeting will be held at the Marble Falls High School commons (front entrance), 2101 Mustang Drive in Marble Falls.
Enforcement of a mask mandate on school campuses has been delayed until a 6 p.m. Sept. 8 meeting of the Marble Falls Independent School District Board of Trustees. Superintendent Chris Allen made the announcement at the close of business on Wednesday, Sept. 1.
Also, the district posted a link to an online survey seeking feedback. It includes three “yes” or “no” questions and one comment section for ideas on how to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms. MFISD recently shut down Highland Lakes Elementary in Granite Shoals because so many teachers were in quarantine due to positive tests. The survey allows only one vote per person.
The mask mandate was approved by school board trustees at a special meeting Aug. 30 and took effect on Sept. 1. The announcement on the moratorium came after about 150 parents gathered in front the administration building that morning to voice their opposition to the mandate. Allen and board members Alex Payson and Kevin Naumann were at the protest. Naumann spoke, telling the crowd to expect a response later that day.
“We hear you,” he said.
In his letter to the school community, he pleaded for civility and understanding.
“The strongest way we can thrive as a community is for there to be a deep level of trust between us: school and child, child and parent, school and parent, school and community,” he wrote. “We hope that we can love and serve in a way that deepens this trust. Trust is built by listening to one another, getting to know each another, and ultimately caring about one another.”
Allen listed four reasons for putting the moratorium in place:
- There have been objections raised about the mask mandate generally and the lack of opportunity for input more specifically. It is not uncommon for a group opposing a decision to make this claim; however, it seems to me and other members of District leadership that more could have and should have been done to glean various perspectives before addressing such a deeply divisive issue. A first (but not the only step) in this direction is a request that you complete the entirely anonymous survey found here.
- The District is committed to building community through these difficult issues. It is important to us that we do our part to maintain a strong sense of community. It is impossible to make everyone happy, but we will continue to try and have open lines of dialogue and treat everyone with respect.
- GA-38 (the Governor’s prohibition on mask mandates) is currently unenforceable because of a temporary injunction stemming from legal action out of Cameron County. There has been some unanticipated developments in that case which may cause the temporary injunction to lapse.
- There is currently a bill under consideration as part of the Texas Legislature’s Special Session that may heavily influence all of this discussion.
The district’s survey asks the following three “yes” or “no” questions:
- Are you in favor of the current MFISD policy that requires students and staff to wear masks?
- Are you in favor of a policy that would allow parents to opt out unconditionally?
- Are you in favor of masks being completely optional?
It then asks the following open-ended question: What ideas aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, other than masks, would you suggest the District consider?
In his letter to the community, Naumann acknowledged that the road ahead would not be easy and would take work.
“It will be uncomfortable at times,” he said. “It will be easiest to slip back into how the rest of the world treats one another, but I believe in us. We have some real challenges to tackle; and quickly. The most looming is the health and safety of our staff and students. Would you take the first step with us by participating in the collection of feedback Dr. Allen will be releasing in his letter?”