Crowley schools superintendent lifts mask mandate citing fewer cases, hospitalizations

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Crowley schools superintendent Michael McFarland announced that he is lifting the district’s temporary mask mandate, starting Thursday.

He cited a rapid decline in COVID cases and lower hospitalization numbers as factors that led to his decision.

“In our decision-making, we strongly consider and deeply respect the rights of the individuals of each decision we make through the lens of collective will for the common good,” McFarland said in a video posted on the district’s website Friday.

McFarland added that although students wore masks, they continued learning and in some cases, showed academic growth that was seen before the pandemic. Enrollment numbers also increased, he said.

Crowley’s temporary mask mandate has been in place since Aug. 11 in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s order prohibiting school districts from issuing mask mandates.

Anthony Kirchner, a spokesman for the Crowley schools, said the district issued the temporary mandate on Aug. 11 in response to a letter from 165 doctors from Cook Children’s Health Care Systems pleading with school districts to issue mask mandates. At the time, there were only two pediatric beds available in the north Texas region.

Crowley has been evaluating the case numbers and information from the health department every two weeks, he said.

Masks are encouraged, but they will be optional starting Thursday, Kirchner said.

Crowley also joined other school districts throughout the state in suing Abbott alleging that local officials should have the authority to decide what is best for their communities.

A Travis County district judge issued an order allowing Crowley to keep its temporary mask mandate in place.

Meanwhile, a group called Parents for Crowley Education filed a lawsuit last month against the school district in Tarrant County district court alleging that Crowley’s mask mandate interfered with children’s academic progress. The group also said the school board violated the Open Meetings Act because there wasn’t a public vote. Attorney Warren Norred is representing the parents.

The suit was moved to federal court on Oct. 21. Federal District Judge Mark Pittman ordered the parents to refile the case to comply with court rules.

“We are moving from mask mandate to mask encouraged,” McFarland said in the video.

“It is still clear that we should choose to wear masks for the common good of others, and that it is also clear that you should choose to get vaccinated for the common good of others,” McFarland said.

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