Diocese Says Masks Required at Its Schools

The Catholic Diocese of Dallas announced Monday evening that beginning Tuesday, all of its campuses will require masks.

In a letter to parents, Diocese superintendent Matthew Vereecke said that masks will be required to be worn by all students, staff, and visitors inside school buildings, regardless of vaccination status.

Vereecke said that while last May, the Diocese had returned the decision making regarding COVID response to the individual schools because case counts were lower, the rising case counts and the concerns over the Delta variant spurred the decision to issue the mask requirement now.

Vereecke said the “delta variant has created a clear and present danger for unvaccinated children in our community, which is currently the majority of our approximately 15,000 students.”

The letter explained that Bishop Edward J. Burns asked the superintendent’s office with updating its guidance to schools to make sure all of them were taking a uniform approach. The new protocols will be in place until further notice, but “it is our intention to return control to the local sites as soon as it is safe to do so,” Vereecke said. 

Local guidance will still apply for any sports, outdoor activities, and volunteer activities.

Vereecke ends his letter to parents by encouraging them to make sure everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated has done so. 

“I ask this for two reasons. First, I am in frequent communication with Parkland hospital, and the local data for vaccination effectiveness shows a 98.5% rate of avoiding hospitalization or serious consequences,” he wrote. “Put another way, that is 1.5 cases per 100,000 people. For the non-vaccinated, that rate jumps to 100 cases per 100,000 people. Second, last year, the number one vector across the 608 student cases we had in the diocese were family and close friends. For our youngest students, the most likely people to infect them were their parents.”

Vereecke also recommended that students and staff upgrade from cloth masks to KN-95 masks or N95 masks that can form a seal around the mouth and nose.

“As much as this is difficult to send, please know that I remain hopeful,” he concluded. “We now have tools that we did not have last year, and as such we are not powerless to overcome this. Please pray that the Lord will continue to offer us His wisdom and guidance, and will lead us safely to our return to normalcy.”

Earlier Monday, Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa announced that the district will be requiring masks — at least temporarily — despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order. Shortly before 10 p.m. Monday, Austin ISD also announced it would require masks.

The Diocese, however, and other private schools are not subject to Abbott’s order.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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