Dr. Jeannie Stone delivered a video message on masks Thursday

Update: Masks will be required through the end of the semester. Now that vaccines are available for students 5-11, masks will be encouraged but optional beginning Jan. 4.

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COVID-19 cases have dropped dramatically from their peak when the school year started, so Richardson ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Stone on Thursday declared face masks “encouraged but optional” in junior highs, high schools and central buildings. Masks are still required in elementary schools, where children under 12 aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine. The change is effective Nov. 3.

“RISD has been following a series of metrics related to the pandemic to help guide us in making decisions on mitigation strategies like masks,” Stone said in a video message. “Data related to positive cases, virus transmission countywide and in our zip codes, strain on the healthcare system, and vaccine rates are among the factors we watch, as recommended by the CDC. Positive cases in RISD have dropped dramatically since our peak levels in late August and early September. In fact, as of today, cases were one seventh the level we experienced at our peak. As concerning as the numbers were for the first month of school, we are very optimistic by the downward trend.”

A vaccine for children cleared its first regulatory hurdle this week after a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted to recommend it for emergency use authorization for kids aged 5 to 11. Stone said that approval, widely expected in the coming days, will allow RISD to set up vaccination opportunities within the district.

“If all goes as expected, elementary students ages 5-11 could be fully vaccinated by winter break,” she said.

You may view Stone’s video message below and read RISD’s COVID policies here.