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Richardson ISD requiring face masks through January; district sees pandemic-high number of cases

As of 4 p.m. Friday, the district's COVID-19 data shows there are 1,089 total active cases among students (832) and employees (257).

RICHARDSON, Texas — The Richardson Independent School District is now requiring face masks inside its schools through at least the end of January, the district announced Friday. The mask policy begins Monday, Jan. 10.

The decision comes as the district sees a pandemic-high number of positive cases after students and staff returned from holiday break on Tuesday, Jan. 4, according to the district.

As of 4 p.m. Friday, the district's COVID-19 data shows there are 1,089 total active cases among students (832) and employees (257). For comparison, the district said, Friday, there were 49 total active cases on Dec. 7.

“This decision was made because of an unprecedented rise in positive cases among students and employees,” Interim Superintendent Tabitha Branum said. “We continue to focus on the goal of keeping our schools open for in-person teaching and learning, and this is a necessary step if we hope to keep our students learning in school.”

The district said it will assess COVID-19 conditions ahead of Jan. 31 to see if the policy will need to continue.

According to the district on Friday, it continues to offer COVID-19 testing to students and staff on Mondays, at Lake Highlands High School, and Wednesdays, at Richardson High School.

Richardson ISD had required face masks at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year and was among some Texas school districts that implemented this requirement despite an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott that bans such mandates at public schools.

The district switched to only requiring masks at elementary schools on Nov. 3. During the change in the mask policy, the district had cited a decline in cases and the approval of the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 as the reason.

Richardson ISD's former superintendent, Dr. Jeannie Stone, garnered criticism from parents and school board members for her COVID-19 precautions and mask requirement at the start of this school year.

The district's school board accepted her resignation on Dec. 13, despite pushback from her supporters who claimed she was being forced out of her position.