HOUSTON - After a year of trying to homeschool her son while also undergoing chemotherapy, Connie Jan, M.D., was hoping he would be back at Frostwood Elementary in Spring Branch ISD this month. Jan, a pediatrician, is battling metastatic ovarian cancer.
"I was sick a lot of days," she said. "I am in chemotherapy where I'm going every week."
The delta variant along with Spring Branch ISD not requiring masks is putting her family between a rock and a hard place.
"I certainly feel like the risks of our kids transmitting COVID to each other within the school are much higher this year than they were last year," Jan stated.
She's one of nearly 100 physicians and medical professionals who also have children in the district who signed a letter to the superintendent and board. They are making their case for mandating masks for all students and staff. Time is running out; Spring Branch ISD goes back to school on Monday, August 16.
In the letter are accounts of pediatricians of the increase in children with COVID-19 in their hospitals.
"I know from my colleagues at Texas Children's Hospital that their COVID census is at the highest point it's ever been. I think maybe two weeks ago it was at 23 and now it's close to 50."
The CDC reports hospitalizations among those 0 to 17 years old have drastically increased this month. They are the highest they have been during the pandemic. In Health and Human Services Region 6, which includes Texas, more than 8,000 patients 17-years-old and younger were hospitalized in the last two weeks.
"I feel like if we can do things to prevent illnesses in our kids we try to do them especially if they are easy and don't have any detrimental effects on our children," Jan emphasized.
On Friday, Spring Branch ISD issued a statement. It reads, in part:
"A lawsuit is pending in Harris County that will determine which order takes precedence. Until this conflict is resolved through the courts, Spring Branch ISD will continue with our current school reopening plan, which includes an option for students and staff to wear masks. We also continue to remind students, staff, and parents that CDC guidelines recommend that everyone ages 2 and older wear a mask on campus."
Houston, Galveston, Aldine, and Spring independent school districts are among the school districts moving forward with mask mandates. Jan believes this gives Spring Branch ISD the green light.
"Now, legally, avenues have opened for them to step forward and to do the right thing," she said.
Jan is now trying to figure out what to do with her son since Spring Branch ISD is also not offering a virtual option.
"Even if he can wear a mask by himself, the protection that he gets from wearing a mask by himself would not be the same as if everyone in the classroom wore a mask," she noted.
Jan says as soon as the vaccine is authorized for children younger than 12, her son will get the vaccine.