WACO, Texas — The Waco Independent School District will be requiring masks inside all of its schools and facilities starting Monday, Aug. 30, according to a news release sent Thursday.
Dr. Susan Kincannon, Waco ISD's superintendent, sent an email to families and employees Thursday afternoon, saying the number of cases being reported, as well as reports from local authorities, formed the basis of her decision.
The school district started four days ago on Aug. 23. Since then, Waco ISD is reporting 55 COVID-19 positive cases among students and staff with a total of 88 cases since Aug. 1.
“Masks have repeatedly been shown to reduce the spread of the virus, and increasing the number of people wearing masks will make our schools a safer place in the midst of this pandemic," Kincannon wrote. "We will continue to consult with medical experts and monitor both legal and public health developments. Right now, though, I believe that Waco ISD has to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
Dr. Farley Verner, a local health authority of the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, supported Kincannon's decision.
"I am in full support of the Waco Independent School District decision to require masks in their schools," according to the news release. "Universal masking in the school setting will be expected to significantly reduce the risk of in-school transmission, school outbreaks and school closures. While children are less likely to have severe disease as a result of Covid infection, their ability to transmit infection to others in the home is similar to older people. This then results in increased transmission in the community. Any increase in community transmission at this time will put potentially intolerable stress on the local hospitals and healthcare systems.”
According to Kincannon, the district only saw so many cases reported in such a short period of time at the height of the pandemic last winter.
Though Kincannon's decision for everyone to wear masks goes against the executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott, the school district says the Texas Education Agency said prohibiting masks isn't being enforced while local courts take up the issue.
“The reports that we are hearing from health care leaders are too urgent to wait until there is a final resolution to the ongoing litigation,” Kincannon said. “I did not make this decision lightly, and we will continue to monitor legal developments. However, faced with the growing number of cases in our schools and our community, I felt that we had to act now.”