PLANO, Texas — The Plano Independent School District will not extend its mask requirement when it expires at the end of this week.
The Plano school board voted 4-3 Tuesday night against a motion to extend the mask requirement, which they put into place in August.
Board president David Stolle and board members Heather Wang, Cody Weaver and Angela Powell voted against extending the mask requirement.
Board secretary Jeri Chambers motioned to extend the requirement, initially to Nov. 8. Chambers later amended the motion to extend the requirement to Oct. 8.
Board vice president Nancy Humphrey and board member Lauren Tyra supported Chambers' motion to extend the mask requirement.
Chambers said the district should follow the guidance of medical experts and continue to temporarily require masks.
"Our hospitals are still being taxed," Chambers said. "I think we have a responsibility to be part of our greater community. And I think the medical community is exhausted and strapped, and this is, if anything, a symbolic way to say we appreciate you, and we're going to extend a mask mandate."
Tyra pointed to recommendations by national pediatric organizations and local doctors that students wear masks in school to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"I don't believe any analysis we can do will be better than any analysis that is being done by these expert panels," Tyra said. "I strongly believe that we should listen to the medical community on this issue."
Weaver, who voted against extending the requirement but initially supported it in August, said "the experts could be wrong" and questioned whether data backed up experts' recommendations that students should wear a mask.
Weaver said the mask requirement issued in August served a purpose, even though he doubted the data at the time.
"I don't care what any doctor or professional has to say unless they can back it up with the facts or the data," Weaver said. "The data to make a unanimous decision to continue this does not exist. And it didn't exist when I voted for it last time, so I have no intentions of voting for it this time."
Weaver said it's fine if students and staff want to wear masks, "but I don't think that a mask mandate in Plano ISD can be attributed to the cause of COVID-19 Delta variant going down."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masking indoors for people who are not fully vaccinated, and many children are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. The American Academy of Pediatrics this summer recommended universal masking in schools to slow COVID-19 transmission.
"I respect the medical community for everything they do," said Wang, who also opposed the mask requirement. "But we are not wearing the right masks. We are not wearing them properly. And those experts are not the ones who are walking our school grounds."
The board voted 6-1 in August to temporarily require masks in school, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surged at the beginning of the school year.
However, the vote came with the added caveat that all parents need to do to opt out of the requirement is to fill out a medical, religious and philosophical difference form, available on the district's website. There was no approval process by the district.
About 3,800 students were granted an exemption to the mask requirement, accounting for about 8% of the district's student population.