The Dallas Independent School District is still requiring masks in schools despite the Texas Supreme Court’s recent siding with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to ban mask mandates.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told Texas Standard that the court’s decision was “very narrow,” and until there’s a specific order for school districts, he is going to keep it in place. He’s concerned about student and staff health, as the delta variant of the coronavirus spreads widely through Texas.
“I decided to err on the side of safety, and because I’m getting conflicting information from different medical professionals, from elected officials, from appointed officials,” Hinojosa said. “Ultimately, I’m responsible for the students in the Dallas ISD and the employees.”
Hinojosa says the masking policy was the quickest way to protect people since fewer COVID-19 precautions are in place this school year. Unlike last year, virtual learning isn’t widely available, nor is it funded by the state. And while Hinojosa is incentivizing eligible employees with $500 to get vaccinated, greater protection from increased vaccination rates take time to take effect.
“It was the only option that we could execute on immediately,” he said.
Hinojosa contends that a statewide ban on mask mandates isn’t effective, and that local entities like his district know best how to protect their communities from COVID-19.
“What happens in Dumas and Dalhart are a lot different than what happens in Dallas,” Hinojosa said. “I felt that despite whatever trouble I might get in, it was important for me to make that decision and hold on to it as long as I can.”
On Monday, the district’s first day of school, Hinojosa says only a handful of the approximately 140,000 kids wouldn’t or couldn’t wear masks.
“So far, so good,” he said. “People are understanding this is a big issue and they’re cooperating with it.”