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More Than 700 Students Pull Out Of Virtual Learning After Austin ISD Announces Mask Mandate

Jennifer Moody, a special education teacher at Boone, checks a student's temperature before allowing her in the school.
Michael Minasi
Jennifer Moody, a special education teacher at Boone Elementary, checks a student's temperature before allowing her in the school last October.

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After Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde announced Monday that masks would be required in Austin ISD schools this year, 757 students opted out of virtual classes to attend school in person.

The district accepted 4,035 students to the virtual program; 2,388 out-of-district students applied and were not accepted.

Families who signed up to have their children do virtual learning have until 11:59 p.m. Friday to notify the district if they've changed their minds and now want their children to attend school in person.

School starts Tuesday for in-person learners. Virtual learners won't start until Aug. 24, AISD announced Wednesday.

The virtual program will function like a separate academy. Classes will not be hybrid; teachers will teach students online only. Last year, the state paid for virtual learning, but it said this year it won't. AISD said it will use federal funds to cover the program.

The mask mandate, which went into effect Wednesday, applies to all AISD students, staff and visitors. The mandate goes against an executive orderfrom Greg Abbott that says no government institution, including schools, can require masks.

The governor's office has not yet announced any consequences for the move. Dallas ISD also announced this week it is requiring masks.

Correction: Previously, this story said 2,388 out-of-district children were accepted into AISD's virtual program. That is incorrect; 2,388 out-of-district students applied but were not accepted.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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