Federal grant program aims to help schools penalized for mask mandates

WACO, Texas (KWTX) – To require masks or not–that’s the question school districts across the country are facing. Some, like here in Texas, face legal consequences for their choice. However, the federal government is offering help.

The Department of Education recently announced Project SAFE, or Supporting America’s Families and Educators. The grant program sets aside funding school leaders can apply for if they are financially penalized in some way for using strategies recommended by the CDC to fight the spread of COVID-19, like indoor masking.

According to a press release, the grant is part of President Joe Biden’s plan to fight COVID-19 and help keep students and educators safe. In a statement, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said all students deserve to return to in-person learning safely this year.

“We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them,” Cardona said in part. “We stand with the dedicated educators doing the right thing to protect their school communities, and this program will allow them to continue that critical work of keeping students safe.”

Even though school districts in Texas are not allowed to require masks, dozens across the state have, including some here in Central Texas. Marlin ISD has had a mask mandate for several weeks, superintendent Dr. Darryl Henson said. He added in that time, case numbers have declined.

“Our desire is not to defy the attorney general or the governor. We respect the legal process,” Dr. Henson said. “However, we do have to keep in mind the safety of our children, and in the Marlin Independent School District, face to face learning has proven to be what is best. So how do we keep our children safe and in school? It is currently by mandating face coverings in the Marlin Independent School District.”

The DOE said grants will be awarded on an on-going basis, with grant totals ranging from $50,000 to $350,000. The average grant will be around $250,000, and the money will be distributed directly to schools.

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