Killeen ISD

Killeen ISD fourth-grade student Julie Bonilla, 10, spoke before the school board during public forum Tuesday about her transition from a KISD school off-post, which didn’t require masks, to a school on Fort Hood which does require face masks.

The Killeen Independent School District provided its first COVID-19 update since a federal judge made nationwide news last week, ruling Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in Texas schools violates the rights of students with disabilities.

Killeen ISD officials did not mention the latest on Abbott’s ban Tuesday nor did they say whether the district and school board would consider a universal mask mandate as it had during the 2020-2021 school year.

During previous board meeting discussions about masking, Killeen ISD Superintendent John Craft said the district would not violate the governor’s ban because school districts could be sued or fined by the state if found to be in violation of the governor’s executive order.

On Nov. 10, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas Judge Lee Yeakel found the governor’s executive order banning mask mandates violated the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act by placing students with disabilities at risk during the ongoing global pandemic.

The district’s COVID-19 conversation followed a few public comments from residents and parents imploring the district mandate masks.

Barely tall enough to see over the adult-sized podium, KISD fourth-grade student Julie Bonilla, 10, spoke before the school board and superintendent during public forum Tuesday about her transition from a KISD school off-post, which didn’t require masks, to a school on Fort Hood, which does require face masks.

“I love it,” Bonilla said. “I feel safe ... I miss my teachers and my old crossing guard. I don’t like waking up so early, but I know my mom did this so my sister and I could be safe.”

Bonilla said she wished all KISD students could go to schools with mask mandates.

Former KISD teacher Irene Andrews, of Nolanville, asked the district to implement a universal mask mandate Tuesday, as she has at previous board meetings, for the safety of students and employees.

”I was relieved and happy to hear that a federal judge finally overruled Governor Abbott,” Andrews said. “We finally in KISD are free to bring universal masking to our schools. My three great-grandkids are still waiting to attend school in person; it is just not safe for them. … Let’s give three cheers to good health as we celebrate the holidays safely with masks for all of our schools.”

Superintendent Craft highlighted the fact that KISD’s COVID-19 confirmed positive cases have been on the decline in recent weeks.

“There’s just not a lot of COVID spread, which is a very good thing,” Craft said, explaining the district’s COVID-19 rate has hovered between 0.04 and 0.06 percent of the district’s total population in the past few weeks.

“We’re also keeping a close eye on any variants that may change our environment,” Craft said Tuesday. “One of the things I think is really helping us is the promotion of vaccinations for employees and students.”

Craft said the district vaccinated 399 children ages 5-11 in the first two days of offering the COVID-19 vaccine to that age group.

“We’re seeing some positive trends at this point that are leading me to believe that hopefully, step by step, we’re moving in the right direction to move beyond COVID-19 mitigation,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, according to the agency’s website.

As of Tuesday, according to the district’s online dashboard, there were 22 active cases of COVID-19 among 18 students and four employees. 

According to the latest data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, as of Nov. 7, Killeen ISD has reported a total of 2,257 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff so far this school year.

Other items discussed during Tuesday’s meeting included:

  • Proposed 2022-2023 district calendar
  • Chaparral High School
  • Bilingual and ESL program annual review
  • Early childhood literacy and math goals
  • KISD employee health benefits
  • Class size waiver requests
  • Strategic facilities plan update
  • Purchase of nine school buses
  • KISD police officers body cameras
  • Hiring a new deputy superintendent 

To view the KISD board’s full agenda and attachments, visit https://bit.ly/3Hsdcrs.

ldodd@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

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