The Brownsville Independent School District’s policy of requiring face masks in classrooms remained in effect Monday after a hearing in Travis County over Gov. Greg Abbott’s attempt to block mask mandates by the state’s two largest school districts and several from the Rio Grande Valley including Brownsville.
Travis County state District Judge Catherine Mauzy recessed the hearing until 10:30 a.m. Tuesday following testimony by school officials from Dallas, Houston, suburban Fort Worth and the Valley that it would be impossible to keep students and staff safe without requiring face masks.
The districts had defied Abbott by requiring face masks, resulting in a series of temporary restraining orders last week that blocked Abbott’s prohibition against mask mandates.
The TRO affecting BISD remains in effect until Sunday, Kevin O’Hanlon the attorney for the BISD Board of Trustees said after the hearing. He said that in any case the question of requiring face masks would end up before the Texas Supreme Court.
Attorneys for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton were about to present arguments Monday afternoon when Mauzy recessed the hearing saying she needed to hear more about the law. She said the matters in question were “much too important not to hear from all of the parties involved.”
Asked whether masks work to stop the spread of COVID-19, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa of the Dallas Independent School District replied, “absolutely,” referring to the first wave of infections. He said that with the rise of the delta variant, infections in Dallas ISD had risen from about 100 in late July to more than 700 just two weeks later and are now running at about 1,000 a day.
“It knocked us to our knees academically,” he said when asked about learning loss from students not being in classrooms last year.
Hinojosa also said that statistically, with the delta variant, infections have been the worst among young people, with relatively fewer infections among the more-vaccinated adult population.
La Joya Superintendent Gisela Saenz said the district had seen a 39% decline in students’ grade-level skills as measured at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
She said the missing element was in-person learning, that it is critically important to keep students on campus now and that the best way to do so safely is by requiring face masks.