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Face masks to become optional at secondary schools within Richardson ISD, officials say

Richardson ISD's superintendent says the decision comes amid a decline in COVID cases and the possible approval of a vaccine for children between 5 and 11 years old.

RICHARDSON, Texas — Face masks will soon be optional at junior high and high schools within Richardson ISD, according to district officials.

In a video message Thursday, Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Stone said the district is changing its mask requirement policy amid a decline of COVID-19 cases and the expected approval of a vaccine for children between ages 5 and 11.

Face masks will be "encouraged and optional" at secondary schools starting on Nov. 3, after students return from holiday, according to the district.

Masks will still be required at elementary schools, the district said.

"Even with masks becoming optional at secondary schools, the CDC recommends that people who are not vaccinated should continue to wear masks while indoors in group settings. We strongly encourage people who are not vaccinated to follow that recommendation," Stone said in her video message.

The district said COVID-19 cases have dropped by 85% since the count peaked in late August and early September.

In August, Richardson ISD joined other Texas school districts in implementing their own mask requirements despite an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott that bans such mandates at public schools.

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration endorsed a lower dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children between 5 and 11 years old.

Next week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make a recommendation for the vaccine and decide who should receive it.

Richardson ISD said it, along with a providing partner, will be planning ways for students to receive the vaccine if it gets approved.

The district as a whole has seen 1,326 COVID-19 cases among students and 254 among employees since Aug. 2, according to the district's dashboard.

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