Students without their face masks will be separated from their masked classmates as a new “mask enforcement” policy goes into effect at a Texas school district.
The Eanes Independent School District, a K-12 district in Austin, plans to enact the mask policy effective Friday, Aug. 27, according to a news release. This comes after a Tuesday school board meeting, where the board trustees approved the new enforcement efforts.
“We can all agree that none of us can agree on masks, and none of us like wearing masks,” said trustee Heather Sheffield, according to KVUE. “However, we can all agree that we all want our kids to be in school safely.”
With that in mind, the district’s new policy allows staff to keep the unmasked students in school, rather than suspending the student out of school, as it complies with a Travis County order requiring face coverings in schools.
“If a student does not wear a mask indoors on school property (including buses), campus staff and administrators will begin to address this in various ways, including providing and offering masks to students, reminders about wearing masks, addressing the issue confidentially, and having conversations with families,” the district said.
If a student still refuses to wear their mask, the unmasked student will be separated from the students who are wearing masks.
The separated, unmasked students will be supervised and given classwork in a new location away from those who do comply with the policy. Those learning environments could include classrooms, offices, libraries or common areas, according to the policy announcement.
While this would be in place of a suspension out of school, the district said it would still be considered an “in-school suspension” and a “disciplinary consequence.”
“We are aware of the strong emotions connected to mandating masks,” the district said in the release. “Our goal is to provide a safe, stable educational environment for all students so they can continue uninterrupted in-person learning.”
The policy varies slightly for elementary students (grades K-5) and secondary students (grades 6-12).
“We acknowledge children under the age of 12 do not currently have access to the COVID-19 vaccine and our implementation is designed with that in mind,” the district said.
Unmasked elementary students will be provided an “alternative recess,” and they will have lunch away from the complying students, the district said. Lunch for unmasked secondary students will depend on how many students are not complying with the enforcement policy. The secondary students can continue to participate in instructional and extracurricular activities when masks are not required.
Students of all grades who do not wear a face covering may lose their access to district-provided transportation.
All staff will be required “to support and enforce the mask mandate until conditions subside or any litigation at the state or federal level changes the situation,” the district said.
This comes about a week after an Eanes ISD teacher was assaulted by a parent who ripped the face mask off her, McClatchy News previously reported. Another teacher was yelled at by parents who said “they could not understand what the teacher was saying while her face was covered.”
In the Thursday news release, the district asked everyone “to exercise cooperation and grace towards all Eanes ISD employees as they work to keep our campuses as safe as possible for all.”
Eanes Independent School District is not the first to consider or enact a policy of this kind.
Earlier this month, KHBS reported that Elkins School District in Arkansas said it would place masked and unmasked students in different areas of their classrooms.
Also this month, Manatee County in Florida considered dividing the masked and unmasked into separate classrooms, WFLA reported.
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