Nearly three months after announcing masks would be required in all of the district’s schools, the Texas City Independent School District Board of Trustees voted to make masks optional.

The policy change was announced at the Tuesday meeting after a presentation that included data showing a decline in the district’s COVID case numbers since the end of September. On Nov. 8, the district reported only 10 cases in the past week, a slight increase from seven the week before but a significant decrease from the 81 reported during the week of Sept. 13.

Although masks will be optional, they still will be recommended, spokeswoman Melissa Tortorici said.

“We still think masks are an effective way to prevent the spread,” she said.

The board voted 5-2 on the change. Little discussion preceded the vote but, afterward, Bryan Thompson, District 4 trustee, thanked the community for its support since August.

“It was a hard decision,” Thompson said of implementing the mask mandate. “But we went with science.”

Relaxing the district’s COVID requirements comes as districts across the county have reported decreasing case numbers. Many districts have responded by loosening restrictions.

Clear Creek Independent School District announced Tuesday it would move from Stage 3 of its COVID response plan to Stage 4, a less stringent stage, starting Wednesday.

Under Stage 4, which was dependent on vaccines being available for school-age children, face coverings are recommended for unvaccinated people indoors, regular cleaning will be maintained and school activity restrictions will be lifted, according to the district’s Health Mitigation Protocol.

Stage 4 is one step away from Stage 5, which calls for normal operations. That stage will be reached when the virus is endemic, meaning eradication is unlikely and immunizations and treatments are widely available, according to the district’s website.

Other districts, like Santa Fe, also have begun allowing parents back into the buildings for events.

Texas City ISD’s mask requirement caused a stir when it was announced in August. The requirement violated an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott preventing mask mandates.

Only two districts in the county put mask requirements in place. The other, Galveston Independent School District, was later sued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for violating the governor’s executive order. The lawsuit was dismissed by a district judge in September after the district agreed it wouldn’t take disciplinary action to enforce a rule requiring students and employees to wear masks.

The response to Texas City ISD’s decision to make masks optional mostly was positive at the board’s Tuesday meeting, with some parents thanking the board members for the decision. But others expressed concerns that making masks optional because cases had fallen may lead to a mask requirement in the future if cases rise.

How the board will address masks if cases rise again has not been decided, Tortorici said.

Emma Collins: 409-683-5230; emma.collins@galvnews.com.


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