HOUSTON – As COVID-19 cases decrease nationwide, the debate over masks in schools is returning to center stage.
A group, known as the ‘West U Parent Choice’, is pushing for officials from the Houston Independent School District to end face coverings in the classroom.
They’re asking other families to join their efforts in keeping their students home from school next week.
The group will speak out at the district school board meeting Thursday night at 5 p.m.
Wearing masks in school continues to be a hot topic in Texas and around the nation.
“It should be optional. If you want to put your kid in a mask that should be your choice,” parent Lauren Droubi said.
Droubi and Stephanie Magill both have children who attend West U Elementary School and say HISD’s mandatory mask mandate needs to go.
“We have asked HISD repeatedly for the scientific evidence showing that mask(s) is an effective tool against COVID, and unfortunately there is no data or science pointing to show that mask is a good medicate against COVID in a school setting,” Droubi said.
“Give us the evidence,” Stephanie Magill said. “Show us what’s behind this decision. Why are you keeping our 5-year-old’s masked?”
Despite the Governor’s executive orders banning COVID restrictions, mask mandates are also in place at Aldine, Channelview, and Galena Park ISD.
“I feel like the state leadership from Paxton and from Governor Abbott, they’ve done as much as they can, and at this point it’s really up to the community and parents to say, ‘Enough is enough,’” Droubi said.
The governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Oregon have announced plans to remove statewide mask mandated in schools by the end of this month or in March.
HISD parent Stephanie is pushing for a change.
“We’re not advocating for everybody to have their mask ripped off them. We are advocating for kids to have a choice and for parents to have a choice and for parents to be able to make the right choice decision for their kids based upon their child’s risk level,” Magill added.
Amidst the debate, COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to drop.
As of Feb. 9, HISD has 1,228 active cases, Galena Park ISD has 82, Aldine ISD has 53 and Channelview ISD has 18 active cases.
Now that the vaccine is available for kids starting at age 5, parents say the decision to wear a mask should be up to them.
“Unburden yourself from this decision. Unburden yourself from having this control over our children. Give it back to the parents,” Magill said. “It’s time. It’s more than time to give it back.”
The group is also planning a walkout on Feb. 18. They’re asking parents to not send their children to school that day.
HISD officials released the following statement:
“The health and safety of our students continues to be our guiding compass in all our decisions. The threat of COVID-19 in our communities is still high, but we see that countywide data is trending in the right direction, including a steady decrease in new cases reported, which is consistent with trends observed in other places. As a result, Houston Independent School District is updating its COVID-19 contact tracing practices.
Moving forward, everyone in the classroom, activity, or program of a confirmed positive case or presumed positive case will be notified and advised to monitor for symptoms and test when applicable. Parents will continue to receive notifications whenever a child is in a class with a COVID-positive individual.
As it stands today, HISD continues to employ its mitigation framework which includes mandatory masking, a robust testing program on campuses, and partnering with local health departments to offer vaccinations. Our mitigation efforts have kept HISD’s positivity rate among the lowest in the state and we remain committed to implementing sound protocols for safe in-person learning. If the current trends continue, and no new variant emerges, the district will revisit some of its COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including our mask mandate in the near future.”