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Eanes ISD parents share mixed stance on topic of mask mandates

Currently, masks will be optional at Eanes ISD schools this fall.

AUSTIN, Texas — With multiple school districts making moves to require facial coverings on campus despite the governor's order, parents at Eanes ISD are making their stance clear on this hot-button topic. 

On Tuesday, Eanes ISD Board of Trustees held a board meeting. A mask mandate was not set to be voted on, but parents expressed their views. 

More than a dozen physicians who are also Eanes ISD parents put on their white coats and masks and pleaded with the district to mandate masks. 

"The masking universal – teachers, staff, everybody that's in the building, every single child needs to be masked," said parent and Austin Regional Clinic OBGYN Rachel Breedlove. 

University of Houston associate professor and Medical Director of Dell Children's Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Transplant Program Chesney Castleberry said she fears for her two children to return to Eanes ISD without a mask mandate. She said she's seen firsthand the damage COVID-19 can do to children.

"To say I am very nervous is probably an understatement," said Castleberry. "My children were able to go into the Pfizer trial, so I hope they are one of the lucky few to be vaccinated, but knowing so many other kids and potentially my own are going to be exposed at school is really concerning."

Westlake High School senior Kiera Hunicke-Smith is afraid her high-risk friends could be next. 

"I'm OK if my senior year is not perfect. I just want people to live," said Hunicke-Smith.

Some parents are siding with the governor, saying masks should be optional.

"If they think masks work, I have no objection to them. But don't tell me what to do with my kid," said Pamela Baggish. "I want my child to breathe." 

Baggish said if the district decides to enforce a mask mandate without the governor's approval, they will not comply. 

Baggish is not alone. A group called "Eanes Kids First" is fighting mandated masking. The group said there are more than 1,500 members. 

In a statement, Eanes Kids First said:

"Every parent, student, teacher, staff and administrator can choose to mask if they want to do so. COVID, strep throat, flu, etc., are all in our lives to stay. Personal decisions and freedom are the backbone of our country.

"We applaud Eanes for following the governor's executive order as we know he has access to the best in medical advice and is doing what is collectively the right decision for all Texans by allowing personal decisions to be made."

During the board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Tom Leonard said he's struggling with the idea of forcing teachers and other staff to enforce a mask mandate when it's against the governor's orders. 

School starts on Aug. 18.


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