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Education

Austin ISD Will Require All Students And Staff To Wear Masks On School Buses

An AISD school bus
Nathan Bernier
/
KUT

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All students and staff riding school buses this upcoming school year must wear a face covering, the Austin Independent School district announced Thursday.

The announcement comes as Austin and Travis County move into the highest level of COVID-19 risk guidelines due to a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

AISD officials said because children under 12 do not qualify for a vaccine, they’re using every tool they can to protect students and limit the spread.

"We are going back to full capacity on our school buses. It is very difficult to do social distancing on the school bus."
Kris Hafezizadeh, AISD's executive director of transportation and vehicle services

“We truly believe that wearing masks by our employees and our students inside of our buses is needed. It's needed to keep them safe," said Kris Hafezizadeh, AISD's executive director of transportation and vehicle services. "We are going back to full capacity on our school buses. It is very difficult to do social distancing on the school bus."

Every grade level will have assigned seating to help with contact tracing. Students from the same household will sit together. The district will continue providing hand sanitizer, cleaning high-touch areas inside vehicles after every trip and lowering windows when possible.

The district said it will not deny service to any student who shows up without a face covering, and bus drivers will carry extra masks to give out.

Gov. Greg Abbott has barred school districts from mandating masks, but Hafezizadeh said the legal team looked into it and the district believes it can make the policy because of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and Capital Metro rules.

Per guidance from the CDC, people exempt from wearing a mask on buses include:

  • children under 2
  • a person with a disability who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, because of the disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • a person for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by the relevant workplace safety guidelines or federal regulations
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