Comal ISD school board members heard from all sides on Thursday night as residents both supported and criticized their March 9 decision to make masks optional in district facilities.
It was the first board meeting since that 5-2 vote gave students and staffers the choice of wearing masks to slow the spread of COVID-19.
That decision drew the ire of parents and teachers, upset about receiving 11 hours notice of the decision, designed to coincide with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order that reopened the state from masks and other COVID-19 preventive restrictions March 10.
The group “Open Comal Schools Safely” aired content from Thursday’s meeting through Facebook and YouTube. Featured were more than two-dozen speakers given one minute each.
One by one they stepped to the dais across from trustees, seated behind screens, with the district’s boardroom audience evenly split among those wearing masks and those without.
One parent spoke of how her special-needs student regressed from not having the day-to-day interaction with students on campuses. Others said the mask mandate was an affront to their individual freedoms, blaming “the evil, misguided media and their handlers,” and “We’re in our 13th day since then and there’s no outbreak,” and “80% of us are against it.”
Others fearing how those “freedoms” might potentially trigger a new spike of COVID-19 cases were far less understanding. Another special-needs parent was happy for her child’s interactions while with masked students, which ended when masks became optional before spring break.
Others talked about medical ethics and worries about the after effects of last week’s spring break.
“The limited transmission in the schools is due to mask usage,” one man said. “I believe the students of Comal ISD have benefited from having the option of in-person and on-campus learning.
“(There aren’t) detrimental effects of kids being denied their personal liberties and forced to wear masks that I know for a fact work, and that masks save lives is an accepted fact in the medical community.”
Board president David Drastata and other board members did not comment during the 45-minute session, and went on to other business, as the standing room only crowd dwindled down over the next hour.
Steve Stanford, the district’s executive communications director, said trustees had no plans to reverse their decision.
It was the most attended district meeting (teleconferenced and in-person) since Sept. 9, when nearly a dozen speakers spoke about Drastata, who had apologized for using the words “China virus” in a Canyon High School booster club message.
Editor's note: This story will be updated online and in the weekend edition.