The debate of whether school children should wear masks in schools came to a head at the Lamar Consolidated ISD school board meeting on Thursday.
A group of protesters with the Freedom Matters Action Group — a conservative political organization — came to the board meeting demanding LCISD board members end the mask mandate that the district has in its COVID-19 mitigation guidelines.
The protesters first carried signs outside the district’s administration building, then as the meeting started, came into the meeting room maskless.
Supt. Dr. Thomas Randle immediately asked LCISD police officers, who were already in the room for a recognition ceremony, to escort the protesters out of the room for not wearing masks.
Several of the protesters did speak during the public comments part of the meeting, asking board members to remove the mask mandate.
Christina Loggins, a LCISD parent, said that mask wearing has made students develop a “fear of human contact, a fear of each other, a fear of the human face.”
“LCISD claims to want to be the best for every staff member and student, and yet they don’t want to take in consideration everybody’s viewpoints,” she said. “We adhere to Gov. (Greg) Abbott’s mask mandate and we are asking for you to do what is best for everyone.”
Board member Jon Welch did make a motion to make mask wearing optional in LCISD schools, but his motion was defeated 6-1, with Welch as the only yes vote.
But the district did make some changes to the guidelines, including allowing outdoor spaces for elementary school students to remove their masks, allowing masks to be removed during outdoor athletic events and social distancing changes in some classes from 6 feet apart to 3 feet.
Assistant superintendent Dr. Mike Rockwood said that removing the mask mandate in the schools would make contact tracing of the coronavirus “very difficult.” He also said that if a school did have a high rate of community spread of COVID-19, Fort Bend County health officials could force the district to close that school for up to two weeks.
“It’s kind of a package deal, mask-wearing and quarantining,” he said.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order lifted the statewide mask mandate for Texas businesses, but it left the decision for masks in schools up to local school boards. Over 75 districts in the state have made masks optional, but almost all of them are smaller school districts compared to LCISD.
Also, district officials said that as of this week, over 2,600 LCISD employees in an optional survey said that they have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is roughly half of the total number of teachers and staff the district employs.