School starts next week for Fort Worth ISD and with the rise of COVID-19 cases, safety continues to be top of mind for parents, staff and students.
During Tuesday night's school board meeting, the district announced that masks will be required, despite the governor's ban on mandates.
"That gave me a lot of peace of mind, but I'm still concerned because how do you tell a 5-year-old to keep a mask on all day," said Diana Espino, who wants virtual learning to be an option.
The mother of four said she's very concerned about her three older kids, all of whom have asthma, going back to class. Espino said her 13-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter are vaccinated, but her 5-year-old son is not eligible since he's under 12.
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"I feel like I'm sending him to war because there's no vaccine out there for him yet," Espino said.
Espino is also worried they may bring the virus home and infect her youngest child, who has Turner syndrome. The condition affects only females and results when one of the X chromosomes is missing or partially missing, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“I almost lost my 2-year-old when she had heart surgery, and I don’t want to expose her," Espino said.
She's reached out to Fort Worth ISD, but there's no alternative since class will be 100% in-person.
“I really wish they could give us the option especially for parents that have high risk babies at home, or the people who are not able to receive the vaccine," she said.
Texas state lawmakers are working on a bill that would allow schools to provide online learning and still receive funding from the state.
In the meantime, doctors say that besides vaccines for eligible children, masks are a good defense.
"We're all a little nervous about going back to school with cases on the rise, so we're all recommending that kids wear masks when they're at school, even when it's optional," said Dr. Justin Smith, a pediatrician at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth.
In a statement regarding Fort Worth ISD's mask mandate, the hospital said it was, "grateful to Superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner, Fort Worth ISD, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley and all leaders who have committed to keeping our children safe."
About 125 physicians signed a letter in support of universal masking and other safety precautions, which the hospital outlined in a 10-point guide for reopening schools. The letter was sent to the school district ahead of the board meeting.
"Since then, we have been contacted by representatives in more than two dozen area school districts requesting the letter to be shared with them. We’re also happy to report that 165 Cook Children’s physicians have signed the universal letter to area school districts," the hospital said in a statement.
The medical institution said they've been pushed to the near capacity due to the unusually high number of Respiratory Syncytial Virus and number of COVID-19 cases.
"It is our hope that masking, social distancing and good hygiene techniques, such as hand washing, will prevent unnecessary illness in children," Cook Children's said. "We also hope that anyone eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will make the decision to do so, especially those around children under the age of 12 who are too young to receive the vaccine at this time."
Espino remains concerned about sending her children to in-person learning, but is hopeful that the precautions will keep them safe.
“Their education is important for me, I just don’t want to lose one of my kids," she said.