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The Rusk ISD school board elected to allow parents of students in junior high and high school to exempt their children from wearing masks for the remainder of the school year. The decision was made during the March 15 meeting and it was noted that parents would have to sign an exemption form with an understanding of the consequences attached to the exemption.

Excusing a child from wearing a mask will void a student’s access to virtual instruction in the event the student is required to quarantine due to close contact tracing or should they contract COVID-19 and expose other staff or students while on campus.

Days missed, due to contraction of or exposure to COVID-19, will be counted as absences and normal RISD attendance procedures will be applied.

Parents who have their students continue to follow the mask mandate will have access to virtual instruction and RISD “COVID” attendance procedures will be applied. If, however, a student is found not to be wearing their mask in accordance with the CDC guidelines during contact tracing or COVID-19 exposure on campus, they may forfeit their access to virtual instruction and days missed will be counted as absences according to normal RISD attendance policy.

In addition, the moderated policy states, any student whose parent chooses for them to follow the mask mandate may be subject to disciplinary action by the campus for failure to wear their mask as prescribed.

Even with the moderated mask policy in place, the remaining Texas Education Agency regulations continue to be in effect, including those regarding individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and those who have been in close contact.

The moderated policy has been sent via the Remind app, according to Superintendent Grey Burton, and can be found in both English and Spanish on the district’s website, ruskisd.net.

The exemption form can be obtained through the school office or, if requested, can be sent by email.

All staff and students are required to wear their masks until their exemption letters are received.

Two new employees were approved for hire. Patricia Starr and Lashondra Robinson will each serve as English Language Arts teachers at the junior high campus.

A public hearing was held regarding the district’s Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR). The district earned a superior FIRST, Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas, rating for 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Texas school districts did not receive accountability ratings for 2020, but instead were declared State of Disaster. Of the four possible ratings, the Special Education Determination Status given the district was Needs Assistance, the second highest. District and Campus plans addressing the issue have been submitted to the Texas Education Agency and were approved by trustees.

Trustees elected to pay employees their daily wages for four days missed in February due to the winter storm.

Other items approved by the board include:

• The consent agenda;

• TASB - initiated localized policy updates;

• An Order of Cancellation, as only two individuals filed for the two seats to be on the ballot; and

• The appointment of the superintendent to the Regional Advisory Committee, delegating authority to execute all documents related to Education Service Center 7.

The board also received informational reports, including a presentation from Burton on the renovations of the field house and new construction connecting the field house and weight room building.

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