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Austin ISD Community Group Urges School Board To Go Against Governor's Order And Mandate Masks

Pediatrician Jyoti Kapur speaks at a podium during a news conference on masks in schools.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Pediatrician Jyoti Kapur, whose children attend Austin ISD schools, urges the district to go against the governor's order and mandate masks when school starts next week. She spoke Monday at a news conference at Travis Heights Elementary School hosted by Safe Schools for All.

A group of parents, teachers and students is pleading with Austin ISD to go against the governor's executive order and mandate masks when students return to class next week.

Greg Abbott signed an order in May banning government institutions, including schools, from requiring masks. Since then, the COVID-19 infection rate in Texas has surged, and hospitals are seeing more younger and unvaccinated patients with the virus.

Abbott doubled-downon the ban last month.

At a news conference Monday at Travis Heights Elementary, Dr. Jyotika Kapur said she and fellow Central Texas pediatricians have signed a petition asking the governor to allow school districts to require face coverings.

"The delta variant is not like the previous variants of COVID and we know that," said Kapur, whose children attend AISD schools. "We are losing children, and we feel as a community of pediatricians that losing even one child to this preventable cause is one too many. You can help us not get there."

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. This helped keep infection rates at AISD schools low. The district has said it will require them on buses.

The AISD school board is meeting at 5 p.m. to discuss COVID-19 protocols when students return next week. Dallas ISD announced on Monday that it will require masks on campuses; Houston ISD is voting on the issue later this week.

It's unknown what legal consequences the school districts could face by violating the governor's order.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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