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Plano ISD votes 6-1 to temporarily require masks

Parents can still fill out a medical, religious and philosophical difference form to opt out of the mask requirement.

PLANO, Texas — Updated at 9:16 p.m. with more comments.

Plano ISD will temporarily require face masks after an emergency meeting Monday.

The school board voted 6-1 Monday to vote for a temporary mask mandate, which will be in effect for all buildings and transportation. 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 is no approval process by the district. 

Plano ISD told WFAA the exemption forms will only be available until Aug. 25 at 11:59 p.m. The schools will begin requiring masks on Thursday, Aug. 26.

"The superintendent of Plano right now and her team are working through scenarios and exemptions and they’re going to provide the support for principals," said Roxanne Burleson, a professor of education policy and leadership and a former assistant superintendent for Plano ISD.

Hundreds of people were present at the meeting to show support for a mask mandate and to protest against it.

The school board discussed Gov. Greg Abbott's order that bans mask requirements in school, according to the board's agenda. The semester began on Aug. 11 and the district was not requiring face masks but was encouraging them. About 90 people signed up to speak during public comment Monday.

The meeting started at 8 a.m. with one agenda item to "discuss and deliberate provisions" of Abbott's order and consult with the board's attorney to get advice "about pending or contemplated litigation," the agenda said.

The meeting room was at capacity and overflowed into the lobby and outside the building.

"I'm disturbed by how many showed up that don't have kids who are in elementary schools from the other side," Christine Fischer said. "I think they showed up in droves because it's political and I don't understand why a health issue is politicized."

Parents on both sides held up their signs: "My child, my choice" and "Mandate masks! Keep us safe!" Some people arrived as early as 6 a.m.

"This doesn't work for us and we're in America," said Michelle Austin. "These are our freedoms and this is all of our freedoms, OK. So I'm speaking about masks, I'm speaking about shots. We have the choice to choose."

Plano ISD's board earlier this month sent Abbott a letter requesting to manage the district's mask policy on their own, not by the governor's order that bans mandates.

"The Board firmly supports the recommendations of the Texas Department of State Health Services and CDC to use face coverings to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," the board said in a statement on Aug. 12. "We strongly encourage and recommend all members of our Plano ISD community to use face coverings."

Collin County Judge Chris Hill issued a statement on Aug. 11 that he does not plan to issue a mask order for Collin County.

RELATED: Parent protests, letter campaigns on COVID protocols ramp up against districts

North Texas school districts have been deliberating over whether to require masks in class.

"Even though this debate plays out at the state and federal level it’s showing up at the schoolhouse front door," Burleson said.

Some districts in North Texas are requiring masks, despite Abbott's order and the Texas Supreme Court supporting Abbott in a ruling. Richardson ISD, Dallas ISD and DeSoto ISD are some that are requiring masks in class. 

RELATED: Here are the North Texas school districts requiring masks

On Monday evening, both Allen ISD and Prosper ISD held standing-room-only school board meetings. Parents on both sides of the issue spoke during the public comment portion. Neither district had agenda items related to mask protocol.

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