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'It feels like we're re-living 2020 all over again' | Fort Bend ISD shifts its first school to remote learning hours before vote to mandate masks

The FBISD board of trustees voted 4-3 to require masks although details are still being worked out.

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas — Becca Bowman and her daughter Annabelle both worked from home on Tuesday.

But it wasn't by choice.

"You know it feels like we’re re-living 2020 all over again,” said Bowman.

Annabelle is a second grader at Pecan Grove Elementary which shifted to virtual instruction for the rest of the week after a significant number of students and staff either tested positive or were exposed to COVID-19.

Families received alerts and an email Monday night stating that classes will remain remote for the rest of the week.

"I'm not mad, not mad at the school, not mad at the teachers," said Bowman. "Just upset at the situation.”

It’s a situation many believe a mask mandate might help.

The district's board of trustees narrowly passed a mandate by a 4-to-3 vote after hearing arguments from both sides.

"The WHO, CDC, AMA, Johns Hopkins, the county health authority and the CEOs of every hospital system in the Houston area are begging you to make masks universal,” said parent Derek Hames.

RELATED: LIST: School COVID case dashboards for districts across the Houston area

“I’m asking you to not make healthcare decisions for my child," said parent Kelly Pope. "Every parent has the right to make a decision for this own kid and I’m just asking to maintain that.”

The mandate could go into effect by the end of this week.

However, the district will first develop protocols on how it should apply to indoor versus outdoor activities, sporting events and students with special needs.

"There’s a lot of emotions right now and I’m in that boat," said Bowman.  "This is troubling and it’s stressful.”

Bowman said everyone deserves to heard and respected while just trying to manage.

“I believe that everybody, including teachers and administrators, are doing the best that can with the information they have,” said Bowman.

Bowman told us she knows some parents who had to take their kids to work and feels for those who can’t work from home.

FBISD's full release regarding the mask mandate:

FORT BEND ISD (August 23, 2021) – In keeping with its top priority of safeguarding the health and safety of all students and staff, and in view of increasing data showing rising COVID-19 infection rates in the District, Fort Bend ISD’s Board of Trustees voted 4-3 at the scheduled Board Workshop on Monday night in favor of mandating masks.

The mandate takes effect once Administration develops protocols on how the requirement will be implemented, particularly when it comes to outdoor use, student activities such as band and choir, and for children with special needs.

Protocols for FBISD’s mask mandate will align with CDC recommendations.

“The District will draft reasonable protocols to accommodate our students, staff and families while keeping everyone as safe and healthy as possible,” FBISD Acting Superintendent Diana Sayavedra said. “We are aware that some families may feel anxious about the mask mandate, but we hope that we can all unite in the spirit of cooperation and support of our students and staff.”

As the issue of mask mandates works its way through the legal system, Fort Bend ISD remains committed to taking all prudent actions to lessen the spread of COVID-19 and provide safe learning and work environments for all its stakeholders.

Fort Bend County Judge KP George also released a statement Tuesday afternoon in the mask mandate:

“Monday night, I was happy to learn that the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees, in a 4-3 vote, took the necessary step to protect our children and our educators by implementing the requirement that face coverings be worn by all students, staff, and visitors to school campuses. Our community had been waiting on this action and it should be commended that the Board finally took this step for our children’s sake.

“On August 12, we filed a lawsuit and issued an order, which cleared the way for local officials to make the decision to implement what our local health authority has indicated is medically necessary at this time. I immediately issued an order mandating the use of face coverings in County facilities and Fort Bend ISD is now the first school district in our community to do the same.

“I am happy to know that one of our Fort Bend school districts is being proactive and taking the right measures to make sure that our students, teachers, and staff are safe. This is a challenging time for all of us and our school districts are facing particular difficulty in responding to the COVID-19 crisis with the appropriate safety protocols to decrease the spread of the virus.

“As we navigate this pandemic, I will continue to coordinate with our local health authority to manage and track our County’s COVID-19 data and to encourage our other school districts to follow the guidelines issued by our Local Health Authority. I wholeheartedly stand with our parents who are understandably concerned about educating and protecting their children. Ultimately, we are in this together and I believe by working together we can help keep our communities safe, especially our schools.”

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