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'It's about public health and safety.' San Antonio ISD explains approach to mask directive

The local requirement may only be effective until Monday, pending an upcoming hearing.

SAN ANTONIO — School is in session at San Antonio ISD, and on just the third day back, students and staff must now cover their faces.

“This, for us can’t be about philosophy or politics. It’s about public health and safety," Toni Thompson, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources at San Antonio ISD, said. 

Metro Health went against the governor and issued a directive requiring masks for students, staff, faculty and visitors at schools, regardless of vaccination status. This comes after a district judge granted the city and county a temporary restraining order against Gov. Abbott in response to Executive Order 38.

The order also requires Bexar county schools to notify parents of new covid-19 cases.

“We appreciate the fact that mayor and the judge and county are concerned about the health and safety," Thompson said. "They realize the challenges we’re facing right now bringing students back.”

San Antonio ISD announced they would be complying with the order on Tuesday, saying most of their parents wanted their kids to wear masks, which made it easier for the transition.

“We weren’t sending any children home. We’re not imposing consequences right now," Thompson said. 

Masks are being provided to children and teachers are explaining the importance of wearing one. Staff and faculty are also expected to be wearing their masks.

“Because right now, it’s a directive," Thompson said. "It’s an expectation.”

Several school districts have also announced they’ll be complying, while others say they’re monitoring the situation.

This is a temporary restraining order, only effective until Monday when another hearing is set to take place. 

“Right now, we’ve changed the word ask or strongly encourage to require. If that had to pivot back to ask, then we’ll pivot back to ask," Thompson said. 

However, there are no legal teeth in the local requirement.

In a statement from the city’s attorney’s office, they write the following:

“Our goal is not to punish school districts but to give them and the local health authority time-sensitive tools to protect students and staff. Unfortunately, not complying with this mask mandate only increases the possibility that those in their care could be infected with the virus when it’s clear we know it can be avoided."