DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa has issued a temporary mask mandate for all Dallas ISD campuses. It goes into effect on August 10 and requires all staff, students, coaches and visitors to wear masks when on district property.
"My message to parents is hang with us. We are going to try and do whatever it takes to makes sure you come back to school under our conditions and learn as much as you can because we are behind. Safety is the number one thing," Hinojosa said. "This is a temporary solution to a situation that has gotten very grave."
He made the announcement at a news conference on Monday, August 9 at district headquarters on the first day of school for dozens of campuses across Dallas.
Citing the latest projections from UT Southwestern and CDC guidance, Hinojosa said the ongoing surge of the delta variant of coronavirus cases led to his decision.
"Health professionals from UT Southwestern project by August 23, we will have 2,000 new cases per day," said Hinojosa.
According to updated guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, everyone older than age 2 should wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. Alice Phillips, M.D., a Cook Children's pediatrician at Cook Children's Cityview said she stands behind the recent recommendations that all children K-12 should wear masks in classrooms in 2021.
"I believe children need to be in school for their social skills, mental health, and other key personal connections," Dr. Phillips said in a release. "I recognize it's a hot topic, but for students to stay in school without shutdowns or quarantines, we must do it safely."
Returning to school "safely," last year meant students hopped online for virtual learning outside the classroom. And Hinojosa touched on the current lack of virtual learning as an option.
"Unlike last year, we had the opportunity to pivot. There is no virtual option at this time. However, I am having my team look at a virtual option to see if we can pull it off. We would get no state funding but I don't want to lose students to home school, no school, charter school... to Texas Tech or UT Austin. They can provide a virtual option. We can't."
He encouraged people to receive their COVID-19 vaccine, but appeared frustrated that school officials aren't allowed to ask about someone's status or contact trace. "They said you don't have to contact trace. That's not what we are going to do! We are going to contact trace."
When asked about Governor Greg Abbott's current executive order prohibiting state government entities from enacting face covering mandates and the possibility of facing fines, Hinojosa said he's accountable.
"That executive order is very loose, according to our attorneys. But I'd rather face that consequence of having to pay some money than to get further behind with these students."
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