CISD masks

Katherine McLane and Brett Fey pick up their son, Ian McLane, 6, from the bus stop on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Katherine has two kids that attend Hoffman Lane Elementary and Church Hill Middle School. McLane said she was not aware of the district's decision to make masks optional for staff and students until she had already sent the boys off to school Wednesday morning. MIKALA COMPTON | Herald-Zeitung

Did you check your e-mail before you sent your child off to a Comal ISD school on Wednesday morning?  No? 

Then you might have been surprised to learn the district’s board of trustees decided Tuesday night to turn their campuses into potential COVID-19 petri dishes. Starting on Wednesday morning.

Some parents found out via e-mail sent by board president David Drastata after 8 p.m. Tuesday night. Some found out from media coverage that appeared online on social media. Still others didn’t find out until their kids were already wandering the hallways.

This was inexplicable and inexcusable. 

Setting aside the dubious decision to make masks optional when it’s opposed by health and science experts at just about every level of government, the rush to make such a decision effective less than 12 hours after it was announced was deeply irresponsible.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott gave the state’s residents, organizations and businesses a week to make necessary adjustments to the lifting of the mask mandate. Comal ISD didn’t even give its educators and parents a full day.

The staggering part of this story is that the district has a natural point approaching to put such a change in place. Spring break starts at the end of the week and would have let everyone do what is necessary to resume for the end of school. In fact, district administrators recommended starting the new policy on March 29, but the board opted to speed ahead, blindsiding parents and educators alike.

Neighboring New Braunfels ISD chose to keep the masks for the remainder of the school year because, as one of their board members so astutely put it: “We’re just right on the cusp of getting mass vaccinations and there’s only, what, 55 days or so left of school?” NBISD trustee Eric Bergquist said. “We need to finish strong, we will revisit these policies as vaccines go up.”

Most other districts across the state took the same approach, and in New Braunfels ISD, the district solicited opinions from both parents and educators on the mask question. Comal ISD did neither — saying they didn’t have time — when, in fact, they had the same week since Abbott’s announcement that every other school district in the state had.

The district failed to ask the question of parents and teachers because it knew what the answer would be. The board failed those same people by rushing ahead even faster than its own administration advocated for.

This wasn’t just a failure of communication, this was a failure to try. This was, more egregiously, a failure to care. 

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(5) comments

Rosa Gonzales

I was completely blindsided by the email that was sent the night before the change and so were many parents, teachers and staff. I did watch the vote and appreciate Tim Hennesey for speaking up and using the brain God gave him to know this was a very poor decision and executed in a complete bubble from the constituents they serve. Please remember you serve on the board because we elected you!! And to Mr. Kim- you should stop kissing up to your buddy Abbott... we pay your salary too!! And to the group of kids who went out to protest on Friday after school! Great job in being the voice for so many. We need more of you guys speaking up and letting the “adults” who make decisions know what you want and why!! I emailed the board and Mr. Kim with absolutely no response. This is not the third time I send messages this year that fall on deaf years !! Guess I’ll have to show up to your next school board meeting since you don’t think you have to speak to the parents who pay school taxes!

Katherine McLane

A brilliant summary of how many of us Comal ISD parents feel. Thank you! I’d add one more thing: It would have gone a long way to hear even one word from Comal ISD acknowledging the bind they put many of us in. But there was no apology for the lack of notice to families, just a false narrative about how the Governor’s order forced their hand. In fact, Texas left it up to school districts to decide whether to mask or not so both the decision and its timing were entirely in the trustees’ shoulders. Poor decision making followed by even worse communication from an ISD that until now, has done a fantastic job on transparency throughout the pandemic.

william Taylor

Kudos for Tim Hennessee and Russell Garner who follow the TX and US medical guidelines. Shame on David Drastata, Jason York, Michelle Ross, Marty Bartlett and Cody Mueller for following the political road. The board voting should help us in knowing who we should support next election. Politics or safety to our families.

Publico S Duque

Thanks for articulating our frustrations as parents. We will remember this, come election time.

ND TX

Well said! Their decision was preemptive at best, and sending by email the night before -- when many families were busy getting kids to bed and catching up on work -- was intentional. They could not even muster the courage to post their decision on the district's Facebook or Twitter feeds, which many families rely on for the most up-to-date information.

The Board has given neither families nor teachers any time to react to a seismic change in the district's guidelines. If anything, it has put families who value science and education in an impossible position for the rest of the week (at minimum), including our dual-working family. That is bad government by any measure. And more to the point, shows an utter lack of compassion and care for those they claim to serve.

Thank you for your editorial.

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