By Caroline Vandergriff

MANSFIELD, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Mansfield ISD starts school on Wednesday without a mask mandate in place. But as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, one mom is pleading with other families to have their children wear masks in the classroom.

Michelle Fornal and her 8-year-old daughter Savvy who suffers from brain tumors, and is blind and immune-compromised. (credit: Michelle Fornal)

“It’s scary,” said Michelle Fornal, whose 8-year-old daughter Savvy suffers from brain tumors, and is blind and immune-compromised. “I know I’m not the only one with a child that’s vulnerable.”

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Fornal did online learning with Savvy all last year but said it took a toll on the girl’s mental health.

“She was recently diagnosed with clinical depression, and she’s on medication for it,” said Fornal.

Fornal is grateful Mansfield ISD is offering a temporary virtual option to start this school year, but she fears further isolation will only make her daughter feel worse. It feels like she’s being forced to choose between Savvy’s physical or mental well-being.

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“Probably a lot of people in the district feel like it’s a black-and-white issue of the vulnerable can have the option of virtual and the healthy can go to school without masks, and it’s just not reality right now with the delta variant,” Fornal said.

She’s one of more than 2,000 people who have petitioned the district to enact a mask mandate. Even without one, she’s calling on families to take it upon themselves to make the choice.

“I’m really hopeful that parents will do the right thing and send their child in a mask,” Fornal said. “It’s temporary. I promise they will get past this.”

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Mansfield ISD released the following information about safety protocols in place for the 2021-2022 school year:

“The safety and well-being of students, staff and families will remain our top priority.

The district has several protocols in place to help mitigate the spread of communicable diseases. That includes the option of wearing a face covering, pre-screening measures, the regular cleaning and sanitization of common areas, efforts to increase hand washing and sanitizing, and more. A full list is available here.

As you know, Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order that states public school systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask has not changed. However, students and staff have the right to wear one. Our current protocols go beyond the guidance given from the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and the district will remain in ongoing conversations with state and local authorities and health experts to assess best practices moving forward.

There will also be a temporary virtual option for students in grades K-6.”

Caroline Vandergriff