Talking Things Out

The El Campo ISD school board discusses agenda topics Tuesday night, including updates from the Texas Education Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Newly released guidance from the two organizations allows schools to reduce social distancing from six to three feet. Pictured (l-r) is Superintendent Bob Callaghan, Board President James Russell, trustee Dennis Rawlings,  Vice President Anthony Dorotik and Board Secretary Greg Anderson.

El Campo schools will maintain current COVID-19 safety protocols until the end of the school year, including mandating masks; a decision backed by the school board Tuesday night.

At El Campo ISD, masks have been required since August 2020 and will continue to be mandated on campus until the 2020-2021 school year ends in May. All students and adults on campus are required to wear masks with opportunities given throughout the day for socially distanced mask breaks.

During Tuesday’s monthly school board meeting, ECISD Superintendent Bob Callaghan recommended current COVID-19 precautions remain in place for the rest of the school year.

“We have a lot of things in place, with our ionizers and our cleaners that are hired to work for just each campus, that at this point, we would recommend that we stay with the status quo,” Callaghan said.

The board did not formally vote on the district’s decision, but no one voiced any objections to the recommendation.

Louise ISD trustees also met Tuesday, opting to follow district leaders’ choice to end the district’s mask requirement earlier this month. Students are still allowed to wear masks on campus, if their family would like them to.

Before the change, children above age 10 and all adults on campus were required to wear masks, in accordance with TEA guidelines. LISD leaders discontinued the mandate on March 10 when the statewide mask requirement officially ended.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends wearing a mask in public, the department lowered its social distancing guidance for public schools from six feet of space between students. As of March 19, the CDC now recommends K-12 grade schools allow for a minimum of three feet of social distancing in classrooms.

The Texas Education Agency updated its guidance for school districts a few days after the CDC to reflect the three feet minimum suggestion. The changes come midway through the spring semester and apply to the spacing of desks and when moving around in the classroom.

ECISD leaders opted to keep following a six foot social distancing rule in schools, since student to teacher ratios are already set for the current school year.

“At this point, we see no reason to change … we’re not going to add kids to the class,” Callaghan said. “So, this just adds one more layer of protection from now until the end of the year.”

The CDC change to three feet is great news, LISD Superintendent Garth Oliver told the newspaper Thursday.

“We’re trying to do six feet now, and obviously that’s a difficult thing to actually make happen,” Oliver said. “Saying it should be three feet makes it easier for us to do.”

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