SAN ANTONIO — The courtroom battle over mask mandates is leaving schools and parents in a tough position.
Less than 24 hours before North East ISD started its new year, the district followed the state Supreme Court's order given on Sunday blocking local school districts from mandating masks in schools.
The district sent an update out to parents Monday night after a Bexar County District Judge granted a temporary injunction allowing the city and county to issue a mask mandate for schools, saying they would stick with the Texas Supreme Court's stance.
"Based on our legal guidance, we believe that the Texas Supreme Court’s stay order issued Sunday night applies to this order as well, and was intended to ensure that Governor Abbott’s order banning mask mandates remain in place until the Supreme Court rules on the case,” the school district said on Facebook.
“Rather than putting our community through constantly changing guidance as legal proceedings continue, we will continue to strongly encourage the use of face coverings while we wait for the Texas Supreme Court to decide whether today’s temporary injunction is enforceable,” the district wrote.
In response to the possibility some school district’s may not comply with the order, city attorney Andy Segovia said they will be having further discussion with the local superintendents.
“There’s a lot of confusion, we don’t want to play ping pong with the public. We would expect all the school districts, because we got the temporary injunction to comply with [Metro Health Director] Dr. Woo’s order but right now there is no set thing in terms of what we will do, for example, if they say they’re not going to comply with it. I’m going to leave it, hopefully that the discussion that will be held this evening with the school districts that they will be convinced it’s the right thing to do,” Andy Segovia, the city attorney said.
For parents, it was a curveball thrown before the start of class.
“Usually the first day of school is filled with excitement, and today honestly I was just very nervous,” Angela Aramburu said as her three children returned to school on Monday.
She felt better when there was a mask mandate, but felt shocked when getting an email that masks became optional.
Aramburu dropped her kids off, even though she says they were concerned.
"I was happy that most people were wearing masks but I'm not sure how long that will last if the mandate continues to be appealed," Aramburu said.
Angela's husband, Tony Aramburu feels the legal battle over masks leaves kids at risk.
"The governor has outlawed, he's said no masks, you can't do contact tracing, and it's just counterintuitive to any kind of fight against the virus," he said.
North East ISD says they have seen a mix of students wearing masks at most of their campuses.
Aubrey Chancellor, executive director of communications for NEISD says the district is at the mercy of the court system when it comes to mandating masks.
“I think it’s fair to say that it’s very frustrating, not just for all of our parents, our students, our community, but also for our school districts because it’s back and forth,” Chancellor said.
Chancellor said as the city and county fight with the state, they will wait to see what changes are made.
The district says their past data shows masks work.
According to a statement from Superintendent Dr. Sean Maika, they are noticing an increase in cases among students and staff, and student-to-student spread is more prevalent.
At Castle Hills Elementary, a year-round school that started four weeks ago, 18 cases of COVID-19 have been reported among students, four staff tested positive for the virus.
12 of those cases were due to close contact at the school, according to the district.
11 total cases were reported at Castle Hills last year.
Bernard Juettemeyer, whose son is in kindergarten at the school feels the masks should be left as a choice for each family to make.
"The kids, they're not going to be perfect wearing their masks," he said.
"Vaccines are good, masks are good but leave it up to the parents to decide that," he adds.
For Tony Aramburu, who lost his mom due to COVID, the choice is simple.
“What’s worse than having to wear a mask is dying of COVID, that is much worse, or having a loved one die of COVID,” Aramburu said.