Local school districts seeking answers after Abbott announces new executive order

Both Bryan and College Station ISD are discussing what the executive order means for district COVID-19 protocols
Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 5:13 PM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday afternoon rescinding the statewide mask mandate and increasing business capacity to 100%. Now, school districts are figuring out their next steps.

Dr. Christie Whitbeck, Bryan ISD Superintendent, sent a message out to parents letting them know she is meeting with local officials, other superintendents, the Region 6 Service Center, The City of Bryan and Texas A&M officials to discuss what this change means.

“There is mixed interpretation as to whether local districts can set their own standards or whether we must abide by the forthcoming direction from the Texas Education Agency,” said Whitbeck.

She said that nothing will change before Wednesday, March 10, when the executive order takes effect.

Chuck Glenewinkel, Director of Communications for College Station ISD, said the district’s COVID-19 mitigation protocols will remain in effect and students and staff will be required to wear masks until further notice.

“We are currently seeking guidance from the Brazos County Health Department and the Texas Education Agency and collaborating with other local entities regarding masking in schools,” said Glenewinkel.

Other district superintendents say they’ll comply with what comes down from the TEA, but they don’t envision their schools moving away from a masking requirement in the near future.

“Hopefully we get some sort of announcement from TEA in reference to what this might look like in schools, but as far as Calvert, we’re going to continue to put safety precautions in place,” Calvert ISD Superintendent Thyrun Hurst said. “Knowing the seriousness of coronavirus and the number of deaths that it’s caused around the world, my priority is still safety. If that’s a decision we can make locally, we’re going to continue to wear masks and be safe in the building.”

“It’s not going to change what we’re doing at Somerville ISD,” Somerville ISD Superintendent Karla Sparks said. “We are going to continue requiring our staff to wear masks and also students at school.”

None of the school districts KBTX spoke with said there was any indication its in-person versus virtual learning plans would change as a result of Abbott’s order.

“Right now, we’re still offering both,” Hurst said. “We have probably 15 to 20 students who are still virtual learners, and the rest of our 130 students are reporting to campus for traditional face-to-face learning.”

Meanwhile, Somerville ISD has had its entire student body back in classrooms since October after deciding to cut the virtual learning option altogether.

“We did allow parents to keep their children home the first six weeks of school, but after that, we decided to go full face-to-face,” Sparks said. “We do have some kids that end up being quarantined at home because parents or somebody in their household possibly has COVID. We’ve just been making sure that our protocols have been in place, and we’re staying on top of kids if they’re sick.”

Every school official, regardless of their district, said they’ll ultimately do what’s best for their students and staff.

Texas A&M University and Blinn College also said they’re waiting for guidance before they decide how to move forward.

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