Superintendent: Mask Requirement for all Schools, Effective Aug. 18

From Leander ISD Superintendent of Schools Bruce Gearing, Ed.D. on Aug. 17:

Thank you for your patience and support as we opened our 2021-22 school year last week. We know our families and staff share mixed emotions about the school year, especially considering the spread of COVID-19 in our community. 

I am announcing an update to our health protocols, as we implement a temporary districtwide mask requirement effective Wednesday, Aug. 18. We are elevating our response level to “Red” as we continue to see cases of COVID-19 in our schools and community. We will keep the mask requirement in place through Sept. 10. The Board will meet on Sept. 9 for a regular meeting that may include an extension of the mask requirement. 

Under the district’s new mask protocol, all students, teachers, staff members, and visitors, must wear masks when indoors, including buses and all school buildings. Students and staff have the option to remove their masks while eating or when outdoors. We will require masks during athletics, fine arts, and physical education classes, practices, and rehearsals unless students are actively exercising, rehearsing, or performing indoors.

Why Require Masks Now

  • After four days of reporting this week, we have had 87 reported cases of COVID-19 on our dashboard. Our highest count total from last school year for an entire week was 130 cases on Jan. 29, 2021.
  • Officials from Austin Public Health (APH) and the Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) shared their concerns about rising cases in our region. They strongly recommended requiring masks to help reduce the spread across our community. 

Help Keep In-Person Learning Open

We understand our families and staff feel strongly about masks, individual freedoms, and the health crisis. While there may not be common ground on those issues, we can all agree in-person learning works best for most students. We will do everything we can to stay open and keep our students and staff safe. 

The following public health and medical organizations have asked schools to require masks:

If the spread of a contagious disease like COVID-19 continues in our schools, we may be forced to close portions of buildings or entire schools. It is critical for our entire #1LISD community to come together for the greater good of every student. Our students need us to stay open, and we believe masks can help the cause. 

Red Stage

In addition to requiring masks, the Red stage includes:

  • Cohorting (keeping students in pods or common groups).
  • Only essential visitors are allowed at campus/district facilities.
  • Cover and close water fountains and use water bottle fillers.

It may take time for schools to implement new protocols. Please give our schools grace as they implement the new guidance as quickly as possible. 

Next Steps

Board President Trish Bode called a Special Meeting of our Board of Trustees for Monday, Aug. 23 at 6:15 p.m. During the meeting, the Board will discuss a resolution to require masks and health response protocols. 

Families who are currently enrolled in the district’s remote learning program and wish to transition back to on-campus learning may do so by contacting their school’s registrar. We designed our current COVID-19 protocols with the guidance of local health agencies and in consideration of the current and developing public health crisis. We will continue to monitor the situation in our community and schools, and adjust protocols accordingly and with the guidance of our health departments and the law.

We have been working with our principals on processes and procedures for enforcing the mask requirement in our school buildings. We ask for patience, grace, and support from our students, staff, teachers, and families during this transition. 

We made this work last year. It was tough, but we came together to stay open and minimize the health risk in our schools. We can do what’s best for most students.

Bruce Gearing, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools