Updated Saturday August 21.
A growing number of parents in the Alamo Heights Independent School District who work in the medical field are asking their school board to implement a mask mandate.
Many attended the regular council meeting on Thursday August 12; several others spoke at a specially convened meeting on Tuesday, August 17.
Alamo Heights administrators voted to maintain their optional mask policy on Tuesday night, while “closely monitoring campus case rates.” They have scheduled another emergency meeting to discuss COVID-19 security protocols on Saturday morning at 8 a.m.
Laura Lindner, a pediatrician and mother of five, said she got involved after realizing that different districts are making different decisions about masks.
“Health professionals realize that you have to take the time to speak up, that you have to be strong, that you have to be heard. And that we don’t want decisions to be based on other emotions. We want them to be based on facts, ”Lindner said.
Based on the level of mask wearing she saw in the first week of school, Lindner believes people may not realize they can still spread the coronavirus even if they are vaccinated. She estimates that 90% of elementary school students are masked, but her older children tell her that most of their middle and high school classmates do not wear masks.
“And the same everywhere (for the faculty),” Lindner said. “We find that not all teachers are masked.”
She especially fears that an unmasked and vaccinated teacher will spread the virus to a class of students too young to be vaccinated.
“And that then puts that class at risk for disease, for needing quarantine, possibly serious illness or hospitalization, or bringing them home to a family member who might be immunocompromised.” Lindner said.
Lindner said masks protect others better than yourself – so an unmasked teacher could pass the virus on to their students even if they wear a mask.
The 26 people who signed up to speak at the Alamo Heights board meeting on Tuesday were all in favor of the masks, according to Alamo Heights mom Ann David. David said 12 were medical professionals, including a few doctors who wrote statements read by someone else. At Saturday’s board meeting, Sarah Feldman said she and 6 others against a mask warrant spoke out on Tuesday.
David is part of a newly formed group called the Alamo Heights Community Alliance. They started a petition ask the district for universal masking, social distancing, HEPA filters in classrooms and distance learning for those who want or need it.
She said there was a mix of opinions about masks in her children’s neighborhood, but she and the other Alliance members believed it was important for the board to hear from parents who are health professionals.
“The Alamo Heights Community Alliance has been working very hard to reach out to our networks and ask if there are any medical professionals who would be willing to come (speak Tuesday night),” David said.
“I knew there were probably a lot of doctors in the district, but between last week Thursday where several doctors spoke, then the number of those who spoke (Tuesday) and the number of those signing the petition – I mean, there are so many, and they do such a good job in our community. I am in awe of them, ”said David.
David said the Alliance has collected hundreds of signatures on his petition, including dozens from doctors.
“Our goal is to keep schools open and keep children safe,” said David. “Me and the whole Alliance were really impressed with the communication the district had (last year), the mitigation efforts in schools, and the very robust virtual learning options that were available to students throughout the year. ‘year… That’s what many of us were hoping for this year. “
These policies have a higher political and financial cost this year. Legal battles over mask policies continue across Texas, even as more local districts heed the recommendations of public health experts and implement mask warrants. Bexar County currently has a temporary injunction from a district judge, allowing the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District to require masks in schools.
Districts with distance learning options, like Austin ISD, must pay for them with local funds. Alamo Heights and Austin ISD are among the wealthiest real estate districts in the state, potentially giving them more funding to implement distance learning than neighboring less wealthy school districts.
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