To mask or not to mask is a question that’s framed many a conversation about the return to school. While Texas does not require school districts to mandate masks, some districts have instituted one. Pearland ISD is among the districts to follow TEA guidelines and not require them. A group of Pearland ISD parents who favor masks have come together with a compromise they say will help – at least at lunchtime: outdoor benches for students to eat lunch.
The idea came from a conversation on Facebook among parents who wanted their children in the classroom, but would have rather masks be a must.
“We wanted to be a part of something we could offer our school district, our principal, as far as trying to work within their means and just offer them a solution,” said Maria Restrepo, a parent.
Restrepo, along with other parents, said compromise was key, considering parents have differing views on masks and whether requiring students to wear them qualifies as an infringement of rights.
“This is something free for the kids, all kids, and it can be used for many purposes,” said Francisca Aguirre, a parent.
Including outdoor classrooms, the parents stressed, given the benches will be present long after the pandemic is over. Restrepo said some six schools in Pearland ISD have agreed to have benches installed outside. Berry Miller Junior High School Thursday posted pictures to its Facebook page of students eating lunch outside. Parents worked with each school’s principal to get the benches installed.
“We’ve all done our part because we all see the benefit of not only having the option of having an outdoor seating area, but you use it as an incentive especially for our elementary schools that don’t have the vaccine available to them,” Restrepo said.
Parents said the project also supports local small businesses which are participating in the project by installing table coverings and other supplies needed. One business even donated over 20,000 masks for schools to distribute.
“I’m hoping we can come up with other solutions,” said Aguirre, who unenrolled her children from Pearland ISD for the 2021-2022 school year, because of COVID concerns.
She said the project is her way of working toward a solution upon which all sides can agree. She also doesn’t rule out a return to the district.
“There’s a lot of parents who are part of this community group who have withdrawn their kids and we feel like we’re still trying to get these types of projects done so that we can possibly feel better about sending our children back to school,” she said.
Along with Berry Miller Junior High School, parents said Silvercrest Elementary School was next to receive benches next week. More schools will follow.