EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — In just three weeks, El Paso schools will reopen their doors to all students for face-to-face instruction for the first time in over a year.
Because schools will look a lot like what they used to pre-pandemic, some local parents are looking for other schooling options for their young children.
As KTSM 9 News previously reported, Texas public schools do not have the option to offer virtual learning as state legislation that would provide funding for that was not passed.
Local school districts have been speaking with parents to share their plans for back to school.
Some local parents told KTSM they are going to homeschool their elementary school-aged children since virtual learning is not an option and masks are not mandatory.
“My daughter was supposed to be starting kindergarten this year and was looking forward to getting back to school, said parent April Thomas, whose daughter would be in the El Paso Independent School District. “I was hoping that masks would still be enforced and there would be a virtual option until at least kids could get vaccinated.”
She said she understands that this was not a choice that districts are making because they want to do so.
“I know that the EPISD’s hands were tied because of the legislation and as a constituent that wasn’t honoring what a lot of parents I think are wanting this year,” Thomas said. “I think many of us, at least until kids could be vaccinated, we were hoping masks would be an option or that virtual learning would still be an option, so those were disappointing decisions.”
Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City and County Health Authority, said the classroom will be a safe space for children, even if they can’t get a shot yet.
“It is OK if you want to send your child with a facemask. It is OK if you teach them how to properly wash their hands — they will continue to reinforce that in the schools,” Ocaranza said. “The schools are going to bring a lot of benefits so that’s what I want to reassure the parents that still feel hesitant to send their children to school.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting local governmental entities, including school districts, from enforcing a mask mandate. Schools are still welcoming masks and encouraging those who are not vaccinated to wear them, but they are not mandatory.
Many parents say they would feel comfortable sending their children to school if all children were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. At this time, only those ages 12 and older can get the shot, however, Ocaranza said he anticipates that kids 12 and under will be soon eligible for the vaccine as trials are underway.