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The Fort Worth school district on Wednesday said that it does not intend to rescind its requirement for student use of face masks as a measure to limit the spread of coronavirus.
The announcement followed Texas Education Agency guidance that “a public school system’s current practices on masks may continue unchanged.”
The TEA said that school boards “have full authority to determine their local mask policy.”
The Fort Worth district requires students to wear face masks while on a school bus and in school facilities.
The Fort Worth and Arlington school districts had said they were waiting for detailed guidance from state government before deciding whether to alter operations after Gov. Greg Abbott announced a raft of coronavirus restrictions would be lifted next week.
Arlington schools Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos wrote in a statement that the district on Tuesday contacted the TEA for guidance on how the decision will impact its protocols.
“The TEA shared that guidance will be coming soon for schools,” Cavazos wrote Tuesday. “Until that guidance is provided, the Arlington ISD will continue to follow its existing safety protocols for all staff and students.”
Abbott on Tuesday said that it was time to reopen businesses in Texas and remove the state’s mask mandate effective March 10. He pointed to the state’s “abundance” of personal protective equipment, testing capabilities and antibody therapeutic drugs to treat the virus as reasons why businesses can fully reopen. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley removed the county’s mask mandate effective immediately, though the state order continuing until March 10 supersedes county orders.
Texas American Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo said on Tuesday that Abbott’s altered directive was “callous.”
The “new orders throw our public schools, students, and teachers into chaos, because it leaves open the question of whether masks will be required in all schools,” the union leader wrote in a statement.
“Abbott has shirked his responsibility to stick with medical advice and clarify what needs to happen to keep our schools safe,” Capo wrote.
Texas Christian University in Fort Worth said on Tuesday that it had not issued changes to its COVID-19 safety protocols. “We are assessing the potential impact to campus with public health officials, our medical team of advisors and University leadership,” wrote Kathy Cavins-Tull, the university’s vice chancellor for student affairs.