PARIS, Texas — While Texas school leaders decide whether to require masks, one district has apparently found a loophole to Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mandates.
The board for the Paris Independent School District in northeast Texas on Tuesday night amended its dress code, adding masks to the requirements. School starts Thursday for the Paris ISD, a district of about 3,900 students
“The Texas Governor does not have the authority to usurp the Board of Trustees’ exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district,” the district said in a statement. “Nothing in the Governor’s Executive Order 38 states he has suspended Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code, and therefore the Board has elected to amend its dress code consistent with its statutory authority.”
The Paris school board said in the statement that it is “concerned about the health and safety of its students and employees.”
“The Board believes the dress code can be used to mitigate communicable health issues, and therefore has amended the PISD dress code to protect our students and employees,” the statement said.
The Paris-Lamar County Health District this week reported 435 active cases of COVID-19 in the county. About 33% of eligible residents in Lamar County are fully vaccinated, according to state data.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have surged across Texas over the last month due to the prevalence of the Delta variant. The spike in cases has led some school districts, including Dallas and Fort Worth, to defy Abbott’s order that bans mask mandates from public officials.
The issue went to the courts, and the Texas Supreme Court ultimately sided with Abbott. Still, Dallas ISD is keeping its mask requirement in place, for now, as Superintendent Michael Hinojosa argued the ruling only applied to Dallas County’s mask requirement, not Dallas ISD’s requirement.
Richardson, Desoto and Carrollton-Farmers Branch school districts also have mask requirements still in place.
Fort Worth ISD changed its requirement to a recommendation, though the Fort Worth board on Tuesday night decided to join a federal lawsuit challenging Abbott’s order.