Parent backs action against Highland Park school board for ‘absurd’ mask rules

After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate in March, returning the state to 100% operation, some parents have expressed frustrations with the Highland Park Independent School District (HPISD) for keeping masks as a classroom requirement.

As students return to their classrooms, parents have voiced concerns for mask-wearing not being optional.

“I believe the schools should make masks optional,” said parent Spencer Siino. “At the very least, they should poll parents on this in a very transparent manner, including questions such as ‘Should the children be allowed to take off their masks at their desks when seated more than 3 feet apart per the latest CDC guidance?'”

As the mandate ends, Siino questions why masks are required in class when they aren’t required in other public spaces. Students are kept at a 6-foot distance from one another.

“My children have told me they already sit more than 6 feet apart in their classroom. It seems absurd that they are not required to wear their mask in a crowded restaurant, but must wear it seated alone all day long while trying to do their schoolwork,” he said.

Siino has since requested that the school allow his children the option to be safely socially distanced to be exempt from wearing masks. He said the school declined his request.

Highland Park ISD Chief of Staff Jon Dahlander told Dallas Express that the district has received both positive and negative feedback from parents on the mask issue and that it is following TEA guidelines.

“The district’s expectations regarding face coverings was initially outlined last summer in its comprehensive reopening plan,” Dahlander said. “The final version of the document has been available on our website since then.”

Siino says if the school continues to hold its mask policy, serious measures will have to be taken for his children.

“If HPISD does not declare unequivocally that it will remove all COVID-19 restrictions, including requiring children to wear masks, we will seriously consider moving our four children out of the district as so many other Park Cities families have done and are considering doing,” Siino said.

When Texas returned to full functionality, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), released updated guidelines for creating safe environments for in-person learning. The new guidelines state that students are not required to wear masks under the premise that safe distances are being maintained. However, the same document states the school board has the right to formally modify mask requirements.

“The governing board of a school system may modify or eliminate by formal action the above mask-related requirements,” the guideline says. ‘In addition to the mask-wearing requirements listed above, school systems may require the use of masks or face shields for adults or students for whom it is developmentally appropriate.”

The HPISD school board has not formally modified mask requirements.

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