Masking in the classroom has been a hot topic at Highland Park ISD board meetings nearly since students returned last fall, but one trustee predicted a more normal looking 2021-2022 school year during Tuesday’s board meeting.
Kim Mauser, who also spoke at the October board meeting, called for a plan to return the classrooms to their pre-pandemic normal.
“We need to know like the other hundreds of thousands of students that are going to go back to school in 2021 and 2022 that they can walk into their schools Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. or whatever their school hours are with the option to not wear a mask,” Mauser said.
Aimee Urista, who has a first grade student, spoke at a previous meeting and said she doesn’t believe masks are effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19 despite the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical experts, including the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“Ever since I spoke at my first board meeting back in September and then board meeting after board meeting, hearing parent after parent speak, no answers, no transparency,” Urista said.
Trustee Tom Sharpe said the pandemic and safety protocols have been challenging, but with vaccinations ramping up, he expects the 2021-2022 to be closer to pre-pandemic normal.
“As I’ve shared in this room, with many of the same people in attendance, we’ve tried to balance a lot of competing objectives this year — (providing) an excellent education but also minimizing the spread of COVID-19 … although not all teachers, the vast majority, up to this point, of those teachers who provided feedback have indicated that continuing to wear masks, they believe, is a critical part of what’s keeping them safe inside of our schools…we’re absolutely committed to trying to create the best possible environment for these kids,” he said. “I’m very confident that we will not require masks beginning in August of 2021. There’s nothing I can forecast that would make me think anything different…others have asked what about between now and the end of the year? That’s much more difficult.”
Sharpe acknowledged that if large outbreaks happen before the start of the next school year, it could prompt a re-evaluation of that goal.
“Long story short, there’s still a lot of people that would like to get vaccinated…there’s a little bit of time between now and May, there’s a lot of time between now and August,” Sharpe said.