Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday lifting the current mask mandate effective March 10, but that won’t change the COVID-19 safety precautions of school districts throughout Cameron County.
In response to Abbott’s announcement, Harlingen CISD, San Benito CISD, Point Isabel ISD, Brownsville ISD and Los Fresnos CISD issued statements regarding their school districts’ safety protocols.
The Harlingen school district will continue to require the wearing of masks in all facilities.
“The overall health and safety of our school community remains a priority,” said a statement from the district.
“HCISD will continue this requirement until it can further review guidance from the Texas Education Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and local health authorities,” read the statement.
Teachers and administrators appreciated the move by the district.
“I think it’s wonderful that they are still asking people to wear them,” said Pamela Briones, choir director at Gutierrez Middle School of Arts and Science.
“Although Abbott has lifted it, not very many people have been vaccinated, so I still don’t think it’s safe,” she said. “I’m trying to get it.”
Veronica Kortan, administrator for organizational development for the district, agreed.
“I think from our district’s perspective and me personally we need time to process and study the entire thing,” she said. “At the end of the day our decisions are all about insuring the safety of our kids and our staff. For me, regardless of what decisions are made outside of school, we need to insure safety of all.”
Point Isabel ISD officials stated that the school district will continue to require students, staff and visitors to wear masks and follow social distancing measures, as part of their safety protocols and procedures.
According to school district officials, the decision was made for the safety and well-being of everyone.
San Benito CISD officials announced that the school district will remain committed to safety protocols currently in place, such as wearing face covering and social distancing.
“We certainly believe that the mask requirement at all district locations should continue for the foreseeable future, as to ensure the health and well-being of our students, staff and community,” the announcement states.
School district officials stated that they remain hopeful for the day when people no longer have to wear masks, but they will not suspend the public health measure until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas Department of State Health Services and other medical leaders deem it safe to do so.
“Our dedicated employees have been on the frontlines throughout the pandemic, keeping schools safe and open for our students,” San Benito CISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nate Carman stated. “The safety of our students and staff is paramount and will remain at the forefront of all decisions made.”
According to the school district’s announcement, San Benito CISD has reached out to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for guidance on how Abbott’s decision will impact COVID-19 safety protocols currently in place for schools.
“The TEA has indicated that guidance will be available soon,” the announcement states. “Until that guidance is provided, the San Benito CISD will continue to follow its existing safety protocols for all staff and students.”
Brownsville ISD also announced it will continue to follow the safety protocols outlined in its reopening plan and those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines.
According to a district press release, these guidelines include requiring face masks, employees must check their temperature and answer a COVID-19 questionnaire, ensuring six feet of social distancing and handwashing and sanitizing protocols.
“We are aware of the current Executive Order issued by Governor Abbott lifting the mask mandate effective Wednesday, March 10,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. René Gutiérrez stated in the release. “However, Brownsville ISD will continue to follow our present Safety Protocols outlined in our Reopening Plan and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines.”
Los Fresnos CISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gonzalo Salazar issued a letter stating the school district will continue to follow all safety protocols, citing the downward trend in COVID-19 cases throughout Cameron County.
“The protocols we have in place are yielding the desired results, and we encourage anyone interested in having their children participate in faceto-face instruction to contact the campus principal to make those arrangements,” Salazar stated.
Valley Morning Star reporter Travis Whitehead contributed to this report.