El Paso, Texas - After a split vote, the El Paso Independent School District board on Tuesday directed its new superintendent to implement a mask mandate for students and staff. The policy allows them to opt out if they are against the mandate.
The vote was 4-3, with trustees Leah Hanany, Israel Irrobali, Josh Acevedo and Freddy Khlayel-Avalos voting Yes. Al Velarde, Isabel Hernandez and Daniel Call voted No.
Before the vote, the board was briefed by medical professionals who spoke about the spike of Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, which is also impacting the district.
Trustee Irrobali called it a "middle ground" solution that "gives individuals who are opposed to these concepts and ideas who say 'it's not for me'," an option.
Trustee Call said he was worried about the potential for litigation. For months, multiple school districts have been tangled in court with the State of Texas and Governor Greg Abbott who say only the governor has the authority to issue mask mandates.
"I wish Texas were different and Texas would give us control but they're not (going to do it)," said Trustee Velarde who also voted No. He also expressed concerns about implementing a policy without proper enforcement mechanisms.
The requirement would extend until February 15 and exclude those who have tested positive for Covid-19 within the last 10 days. Superintendent Diana Sayavedra and her staff will now have to come up with the procedure for parents, students and staff to opt out and roll it out by Tuesday, January 25.