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Austin ISD Will Require Masks, Defying Governor's Executive Order

A mother and her three children wear masks while holding signs advocating for mask usage inside school buildings.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Luke Bonzek holds a sign at a press conference at Travis Heights Elementary School in Austin on Monday. The event was held by Safe Schools for All, a group of Austin ISD families, students, teachers and school staff.

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The Austin Independent School District will require masks in schools when classes begin next week, which defies Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order.

Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde announced the news during a school board meeting Monday night. She said she knows not everyone will be happy with the decision.

“That being said, I am responsible for the safety, the health and the welfare of each and every one of our students and our staff," Elizalde said. "If I err, I must err on the side of ensuring that we have been overly cautious, not that we have fallen short.”

The requirement goes into effect Wednesday.

In May, Abbott signed an order which said no government institutions, including school districts, could require masks. As COVID-19 cases surge in Travis County and overwhelm ICUs, parents and community members have been calling for a mask requirement in schools to protect children.

Last school year, Austin ISD required masks for anyone who entered a school building. Many staff members said children did a good job of keeping them on all day, which helped keep infection rates at AISD schools low. The district has said it will require masks on buses this coming school year.

It's unclear if the governor will punish the district and what the consequences could be. Dallas ISD announced earlier Monday that it will require masks as well.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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