LONGVIEW, Texas — It's one of the most hotly debated topics in Texas schools: should masks be mandated to keep students and staff safe? It's a safety practice most of our local school districts don't agree on.
Longview and Nacogdoches are two large school districts. They have similar infection rates, but two different plans for keeping students and teachers safe.
On Tuesday, Sept. 7, Nacogdoches ISD held a school board meeting to consider whether or not to require masks on campus.
"A motion was made to introduce a temporary mass mandate that would have started this week, and it did not pass, it failed,” said Les Linebarger, Chief Communications Officer for Nacogdoches ISD.
The distinct currently had 75 student active COVID-19 cases, as do 21 staff members.
Longview ISD was the first school district in East Texas to implement a temporary mask mandate after the first week of school.
Dennis Williams, Assistant Superintendent of Administrative and People Services of Longview ISD said the mask mandate was put in place as COVID-19 cases began to rise.
"Once we put the mandate in place, there's just been a handful of people that really were not in favor of it,” Williams said.
Parents like Leigha McWilliams, who is a mother of two and a healthcare worker, sees the need to implement the need for masks in schools.
"I agree with it if that's what they want to do," McWilliams said. "I’m not against it with everything that's going on with COVID.”
Longview currently has 262 cases according to its COVID-19 report.
With its mask mandate still in effect, the district hopes this will eventually bring a decline in cases.
"Of course, we would like to have this virus under better control than what we do by the time that we release the mass mandate," Williams said. "We're offering vaccine clinics as often as we can trying to encourage people to get the vaccine.”
The same applies to the Nacogdoches school district, as one of the other resolutions they passed encourages employees to get the vaccine.
"They provided a $500 vaccine incentive stipend for them that if they produce proof that they received [a vaccine], or that they've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and they have 30 more days before that proof has to be provided,” said Linebarger.
The other incentive Nacogdoches added is giving employees 10 days of leave in case they get sick.
“That will give these employees some cushion that if they test positive, and they have to go into isolation, for 10 days, this will give them some protection, as far as the days off that they have to use to do that,” said Linebarger.
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