Chireno ISD announced it would not require students or staff members to wear masks when they return to school after spring break as many local school districts were left pondering whether to require face coverings.

Trustees in Chireno voted during a special meeting March 7 to rescind the district’s mask requirements ahead of student’s return to campus Monday.

“We are still recommending that everyone wear face coverings in enclosed areas and to continue to follow social distancing guidelines,” Superintendent Michael Skinner wrote in a letter released via social media and the district’s website. “We highly encourage anyone that has safety concerns to continue to wear a face covering and if sick, stay home.”

As of Thursday afternoon, four of the county’s nine districts had not announced whether they would require face coverings when students returned to campuses from spring break on Monday. They were: Central Heights, Douglass, Martinsville and Woden.

Sanitizing procedures will remain unchanged at Chireno, Skinner said, as will periodic hand-washing periods built into students’ daily routines. Chireno campuses will remained closed to visitors during school hours as well.

“We strongly suggest anyone who is able to get vaccinated to do so and we will share vaccination opportunities with staff members when they are made available,” he said in a statement.

Garrison ISD board members went the other direction, following Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches ISD and the Texas Education Agency in requiring face coverings on campus.

“Garrison ISD has decided to continue to follow the policies and procedures put in place at the start of the 2020-2021 school year,” the district announced Thursday. “Removing these policies and procedures would create the unnecessary risk of mass close contacted cases, sending large numbers of students and possibly even entire grade levels into isolation or quarantine. We are hopeful that there will be additional updates from the CDC and (Texas Education Agency) in the upcoming weeks.”

Etoile and Cushing ISDs have also announced they will continue to require face coverings, and both noted they’d wait for further guidance from the state on the issue.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate and occupancy restrictions on businesses were repealed Wednesday. After he announced the repeal March 2, state education officials said they would leave the decision on masks to local school districts.

The next day they walked back that decision and issued guidance requiring masks on public school campuses.

Despite the guidance, on Thursday TEA spokesman Jacob Kobersky said school boards could move to eliminate mask requirements.

“Local school boards can determine what they want their mask wearing policy to be,” he said in an email. “If they take no action, the policy they had in place before Executive Order GA-34 will remain in place for the duration of the school year.”

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