AISD becomes second-largest Texas school district to require masks

Austin ISD has decided to require masks for all students, staff and visitors on all district properties.

Starting this Wednesday, Austin ISD will require all students, staff, and visitors to wear a mask on district property. This makes AISD the second largest school district in Texas to mandate masks district-wide despite Governor Abbott's executive order.

This decision could lead to legal challenges from the state as well as a fine, but AISD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde says she is responsible for the safety, health and welfare of the district’s students and staff.

All 60 AISD parents, teachers, and students who called into the district’s special board meeting showed their support for a mask mandate in school.

"Our governor is playing Russian roulette with his dangerous executive order, our local communities have the right to enforce safety measures," said Courtney Perry, a parent and former teacher.

AISD held a special board meeting to discuss whether the district should enforce masks because of the drastic spike of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the area, a choice that clearly goes against the Governor’s executive order. Those who called in wanted to make it clear that the protection is worth the risk.

"The state of Texas is expecting students and adults to head back into school buildings with even fewer protections in place than we had last year, when the Delta variant is more contagious and affecting more young people than the strain of covid we dealt with last year," said AISD parent Jen Margulies.

"I’m the parent of a rising first grader and I am terrified of sending her back to school next week with the COVID-19 Delta variant surging throughout our community," said Julia O’Donnell, an AISD parent.

"I know it defies the Governor’s order, and I want to assure you that I am there to support you if there is push back," said one AISD parent.

District leaders also heard from APH Medical Director Dr. Desmar Walkes who ultimately told board members that masks are one of the best ways to protect yourself especially kids under the age of 12.

"The risk is highest for those under the age of 12 because they cannot be vaccinated so for them, the number one protection is going to be masking and not just for them to be masked, but those around them to be masked as well," said Dr. Walkes.

After the executive session, Superintendent Dr. Elizalde made the final call. Starting Wednesday, August 11th, all individuals on an AISD district campus will be required to wear a mask.

The first day of classes in Austin is in one week, on August 17th.

Austin is not alone in mandating masks. Dallas has already approved its own mask mandate for schools. Houston’s school board is expected to do the same, after that city’s superintendent said he supports requiring students to mask up.

FOX 7 has reached out to Gov. Abbott’s office for comment on Austin’s decision, but have yet to hear back.  

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