Canyon ISD announces face coverings will be optional beginning Monday, April 5


Graphic Illustration by Kodi Hicks

Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to open Texas 100%, Canyon ISD announced face coverings will be optional beginning Monday, April 5. “I wish everyone would wear their mask going forward,” Canyon High principal Jennifer Boren said. “But, that’s not my decision, and we’ll work hard to make sure students will still be able to attend their events and activities while still following other COVID-19 precautions. If there are things we can do to make the chances higher for those activities to still happen, then we’re going to protect the social and competitive and other parts of school that aren’t just in the classroom.”

At a board meeting Monday, March 8, Canyon ISD announced the district will make face coverings optional for students and staff beginning Monday, April 5.

The decision follows Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to lift the mask mandate with Executive Order GA-34, which opened Texas businesses and facilities at 100% Wednesday, March 10. All other COVID-19 precautions will still be in effect: frequent hand-washing, use of hand sanitizer, disinfecting of classrooms and limits to campus visitors and large gatherings.

They picked that date because that gives teachers time to get their first and second injection of the vaccine before students have the choice to wear masks or not,” Canyon High Principal Jennifer Boren said. “Obviously, there are very strong opinions on one side or the other. I think that was a pretty fair compromise to pick that date moving out, and then they also voted that we would not be changing our other protocols.”

Boren said she encourages students to wear their masks after April 5 because, although she is not qualified to argue for or against the validity of masks, she believes face coverings have allowed for various school activities to continue, such as sporting events and UIL contests.

“We’ve been wearing our masks the whole school year and have able to let students enjoy as much as possible at school,” Boren said. “We’re in the part of the school year where we have the most activities, and I don’t want that jeopardized. I’m hoping this year we have a wonderful prom and a great graduation and all those traditions.

Although Boren believes students should choose to continue wearing face coverings, she said it is ultimately their own decision and mask shaming, whether from anti-maskers or pro-maskers, will not be tolerated.

“No matter what side you’re on, that’s bullying,” Boren said. “We plan to deal with those issues not as mask issues, but as disrespect and bullying of students. There will be disciplinary consequences for those things. Whatever happens, students and staff should still work together and stick this through to the end.

Following the district’s decision, students have begun to decide whether or not they will continue to wear masks.

“I chose to keep it on because I think it’s the responsible thing to do,” junior Marlee Ramirez said. “I can understand why everyone says that it’s [masks] an infringement on their rights, but it’s really not that big of a burden. It’s a minor thing to help keep everyone safe.”

Ramirez said it is important for students to continue practicing proper sanitizing habits to help protect yourself and others.

“I think people need to do their own research and understand how it works and find a little bit of empathy to protect everyone else,” Ramirez said. “So sanitize your hands constantly to be cautious, and watch who you’re around, and make good decisions.”

The board meeting was open to the public and allowed time for community members to speak on the decision to require masks. Many members of faculty and the student body attended the meeting.

“The school board meeting was really interesting,” junior Tanner Owen said. “There was about an hour of public comments. You had parents, and most importantly, students–even elementary students. The kids made a large impact on how far they were willing to go to voice their opinion. You also had concerned parents there too.”

Owen said he plans to opt out of wearing a mask beginning April 5.

“I don’t think the question is whether masks work or don’t work,” Owen said. “Everyone has different opinions. You can go online and find 10 articles saying they work, and you can find 10 articles saying they don’t work. I think the question is really a legal issue of can the school board enforce masks.”