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Leander ISD board approves mask mandate

Face coverings are required for students and staff through at least Sept. 9.

LEANDER, Texas — New coronavirus cases continue to rise in Texas public schools. So far this school year, state health leaders report more than 8,000 positive cases. Nearly 5,000 of those are students. The rest are teachers and staff.

In Leander, the district has reported more than 380 coronavirus cases since the start of the school year less than two weeks ago. During a three-day period from Aug. 21-23, the district had 132 positive cases. 

On Monday night, the Leander ISD board approved a mask mandate through at least Sept. 9, after a group of parents, students and teachers gathered in the Austin suburb earlier in the day to ask school leaders to extend a mask mandate.

During the meeting, parents sounded off on both sides of the issue. 

"If the only thing you are willing to do for your community is require a mask, I find that severely lacking. My youngest is life-threateningly allergic to shellfish, but I'm not running around demanding everyone to stop selling crawfish. It's my responsibility to protect him and that is it. Not yours," one parent named Crystal told the board. 

Another parent told the board it is on the district to protect students. 

"Your job, the district's job, is to look out for the health and safety of students and staff. This is a pandemic now of the unvaccinated. Our elementary kids cannot get vaccinated. Without protocols like we had last year, our kids and community will suffer," the parent said. 

Some Leander ISD parents don't want a mask mandate, saying it should be up to parents to decide for their children. But during the rally earlier in the day, other parents were pushing for more protection. 

"This is an opportunity for us to come together as a village,” said parent Lana Hanson. “I wear a mask, it protects you. You wear a mask, it protects me. Let's teach our children the same."

Face coverings are currently required for students and staff through at least Sept. 9. The district could extend that requirement at its board's meeting that day.

The Leander decision comes as Round Rock ISD could update the opt-out option for its mask policy on Tuesday night. Masks are required through mid-September for RRISD, but parents are currently allowed to opt out if they choose.

RRISD's superintendent says he'd like to change that and reserve the option only for those with extenuating health circumstances, after developments on mandates in the courts.

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