Updated: Mar 29, 2021
The example set forth by one North Texas school district should be a case study for the entire country. Their children have been unmasked since the beginning of the pandemic. My hope is that every 'independent' school district will learn from Peaster ISD during this pandemic and our next public health crisis by requesting community feedback as a first step.
Good morning Jamie,
Thank you for reaching out to us, and for your support. Our school district is blessed to enjoy a strong and supportive community, school board, parents, and staff for the decisions our independent school district has made. Texas is divided into over 1200 "individual school districts" that are all governed independently by a locally elected school board. Our decisions were not made in a vacuum, but rather with input from our community and school board. We took several steps starting in July to achieve our goal, which focused on getting our kids back in school, on time, in a traditional manner. No one can argue that our children need to be in school, and the social interactions are just as important as the academics we teach. We have had an excellent and normal school year, with success in the classroom and on the playing fields/courts. Our kids are happy and healthy. Our average daily attendance is the same as it was at this time last year, our enrollment is up, and teacher absences are virtually the same. Our approach of partnering with our community and parents to use common sense, personal responsibility, and faith over fear has worked well for us. We have a team of moms that meet and pray in front of our campuses each week. When someone gets sick, they simply stay home, get well, then return. We welcome and love anyone who wants to wear a mask and those who do not. Our parents have done an excellent job of keeping their children home when they are ill. Attached is the board resolution we used, our town hall PP, and the winter follow up letter to our parents after being in school for a semester, and our survey. Here are the steps we took: 1. Early July- Admin met and all agreed to move forward on the same page with getting kids back in school. This was based on the data that still holds true today- people under the age of 19 are not affected by COVID and they do not spread it easily among themselves or to adults. For all other age groups up to 70, the survival rate is still at 99.9%. There are studies that show masks make no significant difference in the spread of the virus, but have other detrimental effects. Furthermore, almost the entire medical community is now in agreement that the COVID protocols for children have had a much greater detriment than COVID itself. I agreed to take any heat it may cause if that meant making masks a parent choice. Parent survey went out. Admin met again and reviewed survey results. It was clear our community wanted masks to be a choice. 2. Mid July- meeting with the board president to discuss board resolution to open school in a traditional manner. 3. Late July- board adopts resolution; send copy to our state representative and county judge. 4. End of July- Town hall explaining our plan and our protocols/practice for the start of school. 5. First day of school- any student/staff not wearing a mask took home the exemption form to bring back signed by parents. The Texas governor's order allows for several exemptions. Two of which are medical and religious. Medical exemptions are also protected by the ADA and do not require any documentation. Anyone not wearing a mask at our school is assumed to have an exemption, and we do not ask any questions. This is where choice comes in. After a full semester, and as we head into March, we have required no quarantines, canceled no events, have few people choosing to wear a mask (which we welcome and love just as much), our enrollment is up (1400 students total), and our daily attendance is at the same average we had last year. We had zero COVID cases through the first ten weeks of school, and currently have zero now. We had a few in the winter, but there has been no outbreak of COVID in our schools. That being said, we recognize each district must take the appropriate steps that are best for their independent school district. That’s the beauty of “independent”. We are not attempting in any way to influence the decisions made by other school boards, or superintendents. We are simply making decisions that are best for our students, and what our community expects. Have a blessed week, and thank you again. Your prayers and thoughts are much appreciated. God will get the glory in the end. Hope this helps. Lance Johnson (Superintendent of Peaster ISD)