Some Fort Bend ISD parents uneasy about sending children back to campus without mask mandate

Charly Edsitty Image
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
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Fort Bend ISD welcomes students back to campus, but not all parents are ready to have their children in class as COVID-19 continues to spread.

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- In the week before the first day of class for Fort Bend ISD students, parents petitioned for a mandatory mask mandate and demanded a virtual learning option for students, setting the tone for what appears to be another school year full of adjustments and change amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I am freaking out. It's the right word," said Umamah Siddiqui, a FBISD parent, who has three students under the age of 8.

Her worries are about in-person learning and the fact that her kids are too young to get the vaccines that are currently available.

She points to the surging cases of the delta variant of the virus as the number one reason why is choosing not to send her kids to school on the first day.

"I feel like I have worked so hard all last year to keep them safe that sending them back just because I don't have an option doesn't seem right," she said.

At the time of her interview with ABC13, the district had announced some sort of a virtual option was coming, but no details were shared.

Since then, Fort Bend ISD has stated students in pre-k through 6th grade can apply for a virtual learning option that will begin on Aug. 30 and go through the fall semester of school.

Acceptance depends on availability and staffing, which means there's a chance some who apply won't be able to get in.

Siddiqui says if her kids cannot get approved, she will withdraw them from Malala Elementary and start homeschooling.

Safety is also top of mind for Nicole Shen, who has a 6-year-old son with underlying health conditions in the district.

"He has been in a bubble his entire life," she said.

Her son, Roman, has Shwachman-Diamond syndrome, a rare, inherited bone marrow failure, characterized by a low number of white blood cells. Roman is vulnerable to illness and was hospitalized six times over the summer.

His mother is frustrated that Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order banning mandatory mask mandates in public schools means her son may be put at a higher risk.

"I wish that schools could make local decisions and protect the kids," she said. "It doesn't make sense to me."

Her son does have some learning disabilities, which makes virtual learning an even bigger challenge. Shen would like to see her son in-person at school, but with everyone masked up to ensure there is a layer of protection from COVID-19.

Despite the district "strongly encouraging" staff and students to mask up, it's ultimately a decision left to each person, per the governor's order.

Shen plans on moving forward with the in-person school year and is hopeful her son will remain healthy as hospital beds begin to fill up again.

"If my son has to go to the hospital, he is not going to have a room," she said.

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