Amarillo ISD asking students and staff to consider wearing masks: Virtual learning not an option


In a letter to parents on Thursday, the Amarillo Independent School District encouraged students and staff to consider wearing masks as the new school year gets underway. AISD said that masks are still optional, but virtual learning is no longer an option.

Read the full text of the letter below:

Dear AISD Parents,

We know those back-to-school butterflies are beginning to flutter for many kiddos as the first day of school draws closer. We feel them too, and we can’t wait to see your child on August 17. 

This school year, Amarillo ISD is recommitted to delivering a high level of instruction, school work and educational experiences. While that is our focus, we also know COVID-19 continues to be a concern in our community. Working with the latest guidance provided by the Texas Education Agency in conjunction with various federal and state orders, we want to provide you with some basic information as we begin the new school year. 

This morning we learned that our local hospitals are nearing a breaking point when it comes to the ability to treat patients with emergencies and other life-threatening situations including things like car wreck injuries, heart attacks and respiratory illnesses like COVID. As a result, our local doctors are asking the community to wear a mask in public. We want to do our part and ask you to consider having a conversation with your family about wearing a mask at school. 

As we start the school year, masks are encouraged but still optional in our school buildings for students, staff and visitors. Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order in May that prohibits Texas public schools from requiring them. The exception to that directive is that school buses are subject to federal orders, so just like in airplanes and on other forms of public transportation, masks are required for anyone riding on school buses.

At this time, a virtual education option in AISD is not available. Last year, our system was stretched thin, and we struggled offering both in-person and online instruction. As a result, too often both options fell short of expectations. To get students back on track this academic year, we want our teachers to be able to focus on in-person classroom instruction. If your child has COVID and must quarantine during the school year, your student’s teacher can send home assignments with the use of technology to help them stay connected and make progress.

When there is a positive case of COVID in your child’s classroom, we will send an email to let you know. We are also required to notify the Amarillo Public Health Department and the TEA of positive cases in our schools. If you’re looking for additional info, visit our Return to School plan. If COVID guidance from governing agencies changes, know we’re staying on top of it and we will stay in touch with you. 

Parents, we need your help to start the year strong by:

Checking your child for symptoms before school each day. If you think they’re starting to show symptoms or you’re just not sure, when in doubt err on the side of caution and please keep them home. 

Consider wearing a mask and remind your student about heightened hygiene and cleaning practices.

You may have questions we haven’t answered. We understand. There are many unknowns as we continue to move forward. Keep in mind, as we’ve all learned over the past 17 months, guidance from the various governing agencies and rulings from the courts can change what we do, so our District will continue to monitor the latest developments.

Lastly, along with the new backpacks and new schedules, the start of a new school year is a great time for some new–or renewed–habits. Simple steps like trying to make sure your student is on time each day, checking to see that homework is done and getting to know your child’s teacher can make a big difference as we work together to get kids back on track. 

Sincerely,

Doug Loomis

AISD Superintendent

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