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Group of Hays CISD parents calls for mask mandate after rise in COVID-19 cases

Families United for Student Safety, or F.U.S.S., says it wants the district to prioritize student safety over politics.

AUSTIN, Texas — Amy Grant has been extra careful when it comes to protecting herself and her family from COVID-19.

"I shut my business down for a year. We all worked from home for a year. We've made huge sacrifices," she said.

Her 7-year-old daughter, Mila, hasn't attended in-person learning since spring break of 2020.

"I was already prepping for the shutdown. I knew it was coming. I didn't anticipate it being so lengthy. But we survived somehow," Grant said.

Both are ready for Mila to return. Mila misses the playground and the tacos. The single mother misses sleep. Between work and teaching Mila, Grant barely grabs a few hours a night.

But with more cases coming out of the Hays Consolidated Independent School District, Grant could not send Mila back after 18 months of virtual learning and risk getting ill. She is immunocompromised. 

"I can't afford for us to get sick. That just cannot happen. I am fearful about becoming infected or my daughter going to school and bringing it home. I don't know how my body will respond. My parents also live across the street from me, so we see them often and I'm worried about them too. I feel like I have sacrificed enormously for the community to do my part to stop the spread, all of these things, but I just need my kid to go to school. I need her to be taught by a real teacher, not by me trying to throw things together," Grant said.

Grant is part of Families United for Student Safety or F.U.S.S., the group asking the Hays CISD school board for a mask mandate after Tuesday's COVID-19 numbers that show a rise in cases.

According to the Hays CSISD COVID Dashboard, out of 21,230 students currently enrolled in the school district, there are 329 cumulative cases. Eleven classrooms are out, with all the students in quarantine.

Out of the more than 3,383 employees, there are 75 cumulative cases. The first day of school was Aug. 19, less than three weeks ago. And Sunday night was the first time the Austin area ran out of staffed ICU beds for adults.

For other F.U.S.S. parents, like Melissa Huckabay, who has a son attending in-person learning, the rise in cases frightens her.

"If my son were to get severely ill, I'm just terrified about what would happen if there would be someone there to care for him, if there would be a place for him to go," she said.

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott weighed in on mask mandates and how school districts around the state have handled them.

"That is exactly why it is appropriate for the State of Texas Supreme Court to decide this issue, so we don't have a patchwork of decision-making process across the state of Texas. Instead, we have uniformity coming from the governor of the state of Texas," Gov. Abbott said.

But Huckabay said if the district doesn't require a mask mandate, she may withdraw her son from school, something Grant already did.

KVUE reached out to the district for comment. A spokesperson referred us to a previous statement made by Superintendent Dr. Eric Wright.

 "We don't currently have legal authority or practical ability to require masks, but we are closely watching the courts and the legislature," he said last month.

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