SMCISD approves mask mandate, violating Texas Governor’s orders

Hays County confirmed one single Delta Variant case (individual recovered). Additionally, out of the 49 currently hospitalized, eight are fully vaccinated while 41 are unvaccinated; this data is provided directly from the hospitals where those patients are hospitalized.

Sierra Martin | Managing Editor

SAN MARCOS — On Thursday, August 12, the San Marcos CISD Board of Trustees called a Special Meeting and approved a mask mandate for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, despite Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order.

After meeting in closed session and consulting with a legal counsel, the SMCISD board members voted to approve the mask mandate, requiring masks to be worn by all students and staff at district facilities and on buses. The school board will re-evaluate the mask mandate in January 2022.

As case numbers and hospitalizations throughout Texas continue to rise, SMCISD is not alone in mandating masks. Some of the largest school districts in the state, including Austin and Travis County, have also enforced a mandate for the upcoming school year.

Abbott signed Executive Order GA-38, which forbids local government entities from requiring individuals to wear face coverings. Abbott said he would take any school district that defies the executive order to court in a recent tweet.

Local pediatrician at Corridor Pediatrics Doctor Julie Fisher spoke in support of the mask mandate during the public forum, stating that the delta variant affects and spreads to children.

“This is the first time that we are going to see large-scale outbreaks in schools and daycare settings,” said Fisher. “And so for the safety of our children, especially those 12 and under who aren’t able to be vaccinated, the best thing to do is to have them wear masks.”

Other safety measures SMCISD will practice are encouraging social distancing, sanitizing surfaces and only allowing essential visitors. Additionally, all students will be screened by taking their temperature before entering the building.

Nicole Cosper voiced her concerns during the public forum on the possibility of losing state funding and how that may affect children in special programs.

“As a parent whose children rely on state-funded public education and its special programs, I’m very concerned about any backlash the district may receive from the Governors from the state of Texas in defiance of the governor’s order,” said Cosper.

According to Doug Wozniak, the district’s director of transportation and safety, roughly 30% of eligible children have been vaccinated in Hays County.

SMCISD board member Dr. Mari Salmi inquired about the financial impact mandating masks will have on the district if it influences more parents to enroll their children in school.

“We had overwhelming support for mask mandates, including a lot of families who indicated that they would not be comfortable sending their kids to school without requiring masks,” said Salmi.

The SMCISD board said they are not aware of the possible financial impact of students withdrawing or enrolling based on enforcing a mask mandate until after the school year starts.

Hays CISD Superintendent Dr. Eric Wright published a letter updating the public on their planned COVID-19 response in the upcoming school year and will not be mandating masks.

“The governor has decreed that school districts cannot require masks at schools. Last week, Hays CISD strongly recommended them. This week, the district is urging people to wear them at school. Some have reached out to the district asking that it defy the governor’s mask order. At this time, I believe that without any enforcement power, which the district does not have, we cannot actually “require” masks.”

A video recording of the meeting can be viewed below. 

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