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.