A group of Fort Worth ISD parents and community members plans to rally Saturday night in hopes of urging board trustees to vote on additional COVID-19 protocols.
Advertised on Facebook as the “March For Our Kids!,” organizers say they are demanding the Fort Worth ISD Board of Trustees vote on a mask mandate and offer a virtual learning option to all students.
Alexander Montalvo, a father of two district students, is one of the parents who will be at the march Saturday.
“We are having this protest to activate our local community to tell our Fort Worth ISD school board members that you must vote for this mask mandate. A legal threat is not enough to stop them from protecting our students,” Montalvo said. “The school board still has the power to be able to vote for this. Even if the restraining order did include them, and there was a legal action against them that could be taken, there would be a process for them to be able to explain their position and to be able to present their perspective.”
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Initially, Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner announced that masks would be required, following advice from more than 100 doctors at Cook Children's hospital.
The decision was late blocked by a Tarrant County judge who granted a temporary restraining order to district parents who fought in court against the district's mandate.
This week, the Fort Worth ISD Board of Trustees voted to join a lawsuit seeking to override Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates. Scribner said, for now, masks are strongly encouraged.
“I visited about a dozen schools this week and I’m happy to report, about 85% or so of students, faculty and staff are using masks as a result of our encouragement,” he said. “Fort Worth is much like all other urban districts across Texas and the nation. We have passionate opinions on both ends of the continuum. In fact, I joke with my colleagues that we are leading in a 49% world. 49% is going to be in favor of what you decide. 49% is going to be against, and there’s only 2% of us in the middle who have to navigate that space.”
The issue over masks in schools comes at a time health leaders in North Texas continue to track a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations. According to the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, there are 3,039 COVID-19 patients in TSA-E, which covers North Texas, hospitals as of Saturday. This represents 21.83% of available bed capacity and 46.73% of adult ICU patients have COVID-19, council president and CEO Stephen Love said.
“Much younger patients… 20’s, 30’s, 40’s,” Love said, referring to ICU patients. “We don’t want to scare people and we certainly don’t want to put people in a panic mode, for sure. But it’s quite serious. It’s one of the most serious situations I’ve ever seen in my career. We think for the next two, two and a half weeks… cases are going to increase with the lagging indicator being hospitalizations. We think our hospital census is going to continue to grow over the next three weeks. That’s going to be very serious.”
Parents like Montalvo said they hope the current situation is something that can be worked on.
“It’s really, really unfortunate that we’re repeating a situation that we have the tools to prevent and we’re just not doing that as a community,” he said.
A Fort Worth ISD spokesperson said they would not be issuing a statement but did reiterate in an email “the district continues to strongly recommend that our students and our teachers wear masks. We also encourage you to watch our presentation to the board on Tuesday evening when we will detail our plans for a virtual option for targeted students.”