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Eanes ISD to separate masked, unmasked students

The district will create alternative learning spaces for unmasked students, instead of suspending kids who violate the mask rules.

AUSTIN, Texas — Eanes Independent School District is planning to create separate learning spaces for masked and unmasked students in the district.

District leaders decided on the plan Wednesday night. The school board has told administrators to start enforcing the Travis County mask mandate as soon as possible. The changes will take effect on Friday, Aug. 27.

In a statement, Eanes ISD said all students would be informed of the policy before they left school on Thursday.

District leaders said the recent decision is all about keeping kids safe, and in classrooms where they can learn effectively.

"We can all agree that none of us can agree on masks, and none of us like wearing masks," said Heather Sheffield, a trustee on the Eanes ISD School Board. "However, we can all agree that we all want our kids to be in school safely."  

Students who follow the mask mandate will be able to go to class and move around the school buildings freely. 

In a statement, Eanes ISD shared that while unmasked children will not be suspended or sent home for the day, refusing to comply with masking rules will count as a "disciplinary consequence" and a "violation of the Student Code of Conduct." It will be noted on the student's Skyward management program.

"Beginning Friday, Aug. 27, if a student does not wear a mask indoors on school property (including buses), campus staff and administrators will begin to address this in various ways, including providing and offering masks to students, reminders about wearing masks, addressing the issue confidentially, and having conversations with families," shared Eanes ISD in a statement. "If such approaches are unsuccessful in changing the behavior, the student will be assigned to a location within the building where he or she will be supervised and provided assignments. These locations determined at the campus level could be a classroom, office and/or a library or commons location."

The separated learning spaces were an option preferred over suspending students who did not comply with the mask mandate. Mask policies at Eanes ISD has been controversial, as one parent assaulted a teacher at an event, ripping off her mask.

District leaders say the alternate learning spaces allow schools to legally enforce the shifting state and local mask mandate policies.

"We're not deciding whether to have a mandate or not," said James Spradley, an Eanes ISD School Board Trustee. "That decision was made for us by the County. The focus of our discussion is on ways to enforce the mask mandate."

Superintendent Tim Leonard will meet with principals this week to discuss the new policy.


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