Aledo ISD officials addressed pushback from parents that spoke out against the district’s mask requirement amid the COVID-19 pandemic during Monday night’s regular meeting.
Parents attended the meeting and expressed their concerns during the public comments portion, saying the choice should be left up to parents and calling the mandate "illegal."
“I just want to tell [the district] thank you but I also want us to be parent-choice for these masks," Michele Slemmons said. "I don’t believe it should be left up to the school district and I appreciate the face-to-face or having the proper technology and tools to be able to do at-home learning as well — that’s awesome to offer different facets of learning like that — but I also believe, once again, that it should be simply parent choice to come in a mask or not.”
Zachary Clark said what the school district is doing is illegal.
“What the school is doing right now is actually illegal by state and federal laws. As far as denying parents the right to enter the buildings and see how the education of their children is being done, the masking and all of that. What you’re putting is a medical procedure on our kids and we did not give consent for you to provide medical procedures on our kids and in that speaking, that is medical malpractice,” Clark said. “I’m not really at the point of asking anymore, I’m to the point of demanding that things be lifted and parents quit having their rights stepped on because that’s all this is doing — taking away parental rights.”
AISD Board Secretary Forrest Collins said the district didn’t make its health and safety protocol decisions lightly.
“The parent survey weighed very heavily and I think almost all of us thought about that a lot — what do parents want,” he said. “I think a lot about how this will impact our kids down the road but I also have to recognize that we can only control as a school district what we can control. What I see in this chart is our protocols worked and then homecoming happened, and then Halloween happened, so what the district did kept it low and what happened outside of school really fed into that. That’s clear in this chart right here.”
Parent Laura Morrow wants the district to relax its mask requirement for children under the age of 10, citing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s mandate and adding that Parker County Health Authority Dr. Steven Welch would be in the best position to guide the district.
“I think he is providing guidance to all eight districts in Parker County. I’m assuming that he says to recommend, not require, masks for kids under 10. The reason I think this because the other seven districts in Parker County do not require masks for little kids while in the classroom, Aledo is the only one,” Morrow said. “Many families have pulled their children out of the district because of these rules.”
AISD Executive Director of Student Services Scott Kessel said he speaks with Welch frequently and spoke to him twice on Monday about his recommendation for Parker County school districts.
“He said of course his recommendation is that all students in school wear masks, his recommendation is that all schools follow the quarantine protocols and that all schools follow the CDC definition of close contact,” Kessel said. “The position that he’s in, he’s not a regulatory agency so he doesn’t have the ability to enforce that, so he has made that recommendation to other districts in the county and they’re choosing to do otherwise.”
Collins said if you know somebody that’s had COVID-19 or someone that has died from the virus, your perspective changes.
“Some people will say this is out of fear. I don’t see the fear part. My wife got COVID very early on in about May and she was in bed for 10 days with a fever and she said she felt like she got hit by a truck every single day," he said. "There was one point when her hands turned purple and at the time we didn’t know what to do because you couldn’t take her to the hospital — they didn’t really have testing. My older brother has gotten COVID, he’s been to the hospital twice and he’s not the same person anymore.
"To me it’s never been fear, it’s been a lot of common sense, having a perspective. It’s such a tough deal and I think the moral of the story is, none of us want to be here.”
AISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Bohn said she believes the district is giving parents a choice.
“I think that one of the things we really wanted to do at the beginning of the year was to give parents the choice to let their students stay home if they didn’t either agree with our protocols or think our schools were safe, or have them come to school and so we’re continuing to give that choice,” she said. “They have a choice to be remote or in-person and students too and it’s a great opportunity given what’s happening in many other districts in the state.”