ECISD to consider mask resolution

The Ector County ISD Board of Trustees will gather in a special meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in the first-floor boardroom of the administration building, 802 N. Sam Houston Ave., to discuss and approve a resolution regarding temporary mask use by staff and students.

Before the mask discussion, the agenda says the board will meet in closed session in consultation with the board’s attorney on a matter in which the duty of the attorney to the governmental body under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of Texas clearly conflicts with this chapter.

The board will discuss and consider taking action in open session.

The district’s attorney, Mike Atkins, said the language from the agenda is directly from the Open Meetings Act.

“I will be discussing with the board the legal implications of masking; just trying to bring them up to date on the litigation which changes as we speak … in the state of Texas so they’ll know the legal parameters before they go into open session, which is where they will actually discuss what if anything they’re going to do,” Atkins said Tuesday.

“There are several times that a board, or any governmental body, can go into executive session with their attorneys. One of the most obvious is if they’re in the middle of litigation, or if there is a threat of litigation. But there are also times when there may or may not be litigation,” Atkins said.

As an example, say you wanted to see your attorney because “you’re thinking about doing some things and what legally would that implicate. That conversation you have with that attorney is confidential. That’s all this is. It ties back to the ethical duty of the attorney and the ethical duty of an attorney is to maintain the confidence of a client to consult with (you) … and keep in confidence the things that you consult with your client about.”

COVID cases and hospitalizations have exploded in Ector County of late.

During a Zoom news conference Monday with health officials, Medical Center Hospital CEO Russell Tippin said the hospital hit a higher number of COVID-related patients than ever with 106 over the weekend. Comparatively, MCH hit 102 or 103 in January.

On Tuesday morning, MCH had 99 total COVID patients in house. They had 96 Monday.

Odessa Regional Medical Center CEO Stacey Brown said Monday the hospital had 26 COVID patients as of Monday.

According to the Texas Tribune, he Texas Supreme Court cleared the way last Thursday for school districts to require people to wear masks in classrooms — at least for now.

Atkins said it’s hard to say what the status of masking is until it works its way through the courts.

“Nobody knows how long that’s going to take,” he said. “That’s what that is about; to give them an up to date assessment of where they are and the implications to them and the district legally.”

Some districts have made masks part of the dress code.

Asked about whether there’s any provision to take action based on the public good, Atkins said there have been arguments on both sides.

“There have been 80-page briefs filed with legal arguments about why the governor can and the same amount of briefs filed about why the governor cannot. That’s the whole point about until it works its way through the courts and the court definitively says this is going to be the prevailing rule. We’re in somewhat of a state of legal limbo.”