Beginning Aug. 30, face masks will be required inside all Waco ISD facilities.
In an email to families and employees, Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon announced that face masks would be required inside all schools and other district buildings starting Monday, August 30. Kincannon cited the number of cases reported since the start of the school year and increasingly dire reports from local health care experts as the basis for her decision.
“In my visits to schools this week, I was heartened to see many (but by no means all) of our students and employees voluntarily wearing masks,” Kincannon wrote. “Masks have repeatedly been shown to reduce the spread of the virus, and increasing the number of people wearing masks will make our schools a safer place in the midst of this pandemic. We will continue to consult with medical experts and monitor both legal and public health developments. Right now, though, I believe that Waco ISD has to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
Responding to the decision, Dr. Farley Verner wrote, “As Local Health Authority of the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, I am in full support of the Waco Independent School District decision to require masks in their schools. Universal masking in the school setting will be expected to significantly reduce the risk of in-school transmission, school outbreaks and school closures. While children are less likely to have severe disease as a result of Covid infection, their ability to transmit infection to others in the home is similar to older people. This then results in increased transmission in the community. Any increase in community transmission at this time will put potentially intolerable stress on the local hospitals and healthcare systems.”
Waco ISD schools started classes on Monday, and as of 4 p.m. Thursday, 55 people who have spent time at a campus or other facility reported testing positive for COVID-19. According to Kincannon, the district only saw so many cases reported in such a short period of time at the height of the pandemic last winter.
Kincannon’s decision contravenes an executive order issued by the governor last month that prohibited local governmental entities, including school districts, from requiring masks. However, in their most recent public health guidance, the Texas Education Agency announced that the prohibition was not being enforced while courts take up the issue.
“The reports that we are hearing from health care leaders are too urgent to wait until there is a final resolution to the ongoing litigation,” Kincannon said when asked about the governor’s executive order. “I did not make this decision lightly, and we will continue to monitor legal developments. However, faced with the growing number of cases in our schools and our community, I felt that we had to act now.”