SAISD stopped requiring masks less than a week ago after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton may continue suing schools that require masks in violation of Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order.
The district made an about-face on Tuesday and implemented its mask requirement again, effective December 8.
“Prior to our communications last week, we made the decision to temporarily suspend the mask mandate until we had the opportunity to fully examine the December 1, 2021, Stay Order issued by the Fifth Circuit. Upon full review, we have concluded that the December 1, 2021, Stay Order from the Fifth Circuit case is limited to the parties in the lawsuit. SAISD is not a party to that suit,” Interim Superintendent Robert Jaklich wrote in a public message.
“As we are experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases and an anticipated rise after the holiday season, our Board of Trustees, Interim Superintendent, and legal counsel have determined that it is in the best interest of the district to continue to require students, parents, employees, and visitors to wear masks at all times while in district facilities.”
The most recent infection data on the district’s COVID-19 report page is from early November. In the week ending November 12, SAISD was experiencing a 0.3 percent positivity rate, up from the previous week’s 0.2 percent rate and down from the 0.4 percent rate of mid-October.
As for statewide data, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reports that COVID-19 cases among both students and teachers have been dropping since the first week of September.
SAISD is the only remaining school district in Bexar County to require masks, though several major charter schools and ISDs around Texas have kept mask mandates since the early weeks of the school year. SAISD is not the only district to interpret the Fifth Circuit’s order narrowly.
The Fifth Circuit order struck down an injunction that stopped Texas from enforcing Abbott’s mask mandate ban. So far, Paxton’s lawsuits have remained the state’s sole method of enforcement.
The case itself is a lawsuit in federal court between the state and a group called Disability Rights Texas, suing on behalf of seven children with disabilites or fragile immune systems. The group argues that Abbott’s prohibition on mask mandates leaves these children at higher risk of COVID-19 infection, thus preventing them from going to school.
The group also claims that federal COVID-19 relief vests schools that receive the money, not the state, with the authority to create health plans.
According to state data, students at schools with a mask mandate test positive for COVID-19 about 0.9 percent less than students at schools without a mask mandate.
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