Classroom Confident: Bryan ISD superintendent encourages masks, calls on TEA to clarify contact tracing guidelines

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 10:34 AM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - “We’re feeling good,” said Bryan ISD Superintendent Christie Whitbeck six days before the first day of the semester. “We’re ready.”

However, Whitbeck says she knows she and her administration will be dealing with a school year still amid a pandemic. While Gov. Greg Abbott has banned school districts from mandating mask-wearing, Whitbeck says the Bryan ISD team is encouraging them.

“I would say when in doubt, right now, mask up because it will help us to mitigate any issues that we have in the schools,” said Whitbeck on Brazos Valley This Morning. “I would say if they’re on the fence about it, I’d mask up. I’d tell my children, right now, let’s mask up, and Labor Day, we’ll sit down and talk about it.”

Whatever families decide for their students, however, Whitbeck promises that respect of others will be demanded.

“Because no one knows each other’s story,” Whitbeck said. “Families have different stories. It depends on what’s going on in their home, how COVID-19 has affected their family, as to why they’re not wearing a mask or why they are wearing a mask... There’s not a bad answer right now. Even though we tend to want to polarize it, from a school perspective, we just want to teach kids to be respectful.”

As for how Bryan schools will be mitigating the spread of COVID-19, Whitbeck says she is looking for some clarity on one piece of Texas Education Agency guidance: contact tracing.

“This is one of the most ambiguous pieces to the TEA document, so much so that I actually emailed the TEA commissioner last night,” said Whitbeck. “One part of the paragraph contradicts with the other part. It states that the health authority will do the contact tracing, not the school district, but then it states that the school district should--not required to--should notify a parent if their child is in close contact with a positive case. Well, how do we do that if we haven’t contact-traced? How do we do that if masks are optional? It’s sticky. We’re working on that. So I would just say to parents, bear with us. Our document is online, and we are waiting on answers to these types of questions.”

See the full conversation with Whitbeck in the video player above.

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