Austin city, school leaders show support for mask mandate, vaccines

Sasha Salinas, a parent with elementary aged kids, says she feels her most important job is protecting her kids this school year.

"They are eager to return in person but there is also a lot of fear in them and in me in returning pre-mandate," she said.

She believes Austin ISD is on her side, after the district announced a mask mandate earlier in the week and the trustees officially voted in favor of the measure Thursday night.

"Once AISD, Mayor Adler and Del Valle issued the mandate, a weight lifted, there was a sigh of relief. Thank you to them for standing their ground," said Salinas.

Del Valle voted yes the same night Austin ISD trustees approved the mandate. Other area districts, such as Lake Travis ISD, Eanes ISD, Leander ISD and Pflugerville ISD made masks optional.

Round Rock ISD said they are still deciding. After taking a survey with parents, Manor ISD decided to mandate masks on campuses. Friday afternoon, Travis County Judge Andy Brown sent a letter to Lake Travis ISD Superintendent Paul Norton, asking him to follow the county’s masking rules.

Houston Elementary School Principal Alberto Alonso said not only are they requiring masks, but social distancing, and disinfecting will be other steps taken during in-person learning. "We know these measures are effective and we are looking forward to a safe and joyful school year," he said.

Saturday, Hays CISD Superintendent Eric Wright sent out a letter to parents saying they too had joined other Central Texas schools in mandating masks saying:

"Late Friday, our county government joined other counties in Texas in issuing a mask mandate, which includes schools and buses. Since this order is in contravention of the governor’s order and some lower courts at the end of the week have sided with counties, we anticipate the Texas Supreme Court to take up the issue very soon – likely early in the week and before our classes begin on Thursday. Historically regarding COVID, the Texas Supreme Court has sided with the governor. So, we will continue to watch these legal developments very closely. The court decisions will tell us what we must do. They will not tell us what we should do." 

Austin City Council member Vanessa Fuentes said the virus hit her district hard, and they stand in solidarity with the city and county decision to require masks in schools, government buildings, and now public colleges and universities. Gov. Greg Abbott has tweeted any school district or government official that defies his order will be taken to court.

"We have been told to expect a lawsuit but the governor is going to do what he is going to do. At the local level we will continue to make decisions based on the best interest of the communities we represent," said Fuentes.

As for Salinas, she has a lot more peace of mind sending her kids to school. "They very much understand that masks not only keep them safe, but also they keep their classmates safe, teachers and their community safe," she said.

The first day of school for Austin ISD is Aug. 17. Virtual students will start on Aug. 24.

Growing list of Texas schools defy Gov. Abbott’s ban on mask mandates
Mask debate continues as school year begins for some schools
Abbott, Paxton file petition in defense of mask mandate ban
SUBSCRIBE: Daily Newsletter | YouTube
FOLLOW: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter