POLL: Austin ISD to require masks on campuses and district offices starting Wednesday … Should Houston ISD?

Back To School

Masks in classroom. Getty Images

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Independent School District will require masks at all of its campuses and district offices, starting Wednesday, AISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde announced at a special-called board meeting Monday.

Just over a week before children in AISD return to the classroom, the district’s Board of Trustees heard from dozens of parents and staff concerned about COVID-19.

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spike, the board held the meeting to discuss COVID-19 safety protocols. The meeting agenda did not list specifics but noted that Austin Public Health officials moved the area to Stage 5 risk-based guidelines last week due to the spread of the delta variant of the virus.


After spending hours in executive session and discussing the matter behind closed doors, Elizalde announced late Monday night that masks would be required for all individuals and visitors on all campuses, offices and all district property. The requirement will go into effect Wednesday.

“It is very difficult to make these decisions and yet not difficult when we think about what some of the consequences can be,” she said.

Hear more from Elizalde on Austin ISD’s COVID-19 protocols at Monday’s Board of Trustees meeting:

Just over a week before children in AISD return to the classroom, the district’s Board of Trustees heard from dozens of parents and staff concerned about COVID-19.

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spike, the board held the meeting to discuss COVID-19 safety protocols. The meeting agenda did not list specifics but noted that Austin Public Health officials moved the area to Stage 5 risk-based guidelines last week due to the spread of the delta variant of the virus.

After spending hours in executive session and discussing the matter behind closed doors, Elizalde announced late Monday night that masks would be required for all individuals and visitors on all campuses, offices and all district property. The requirement will go into effect Wednesday.

“It is very difficult to make these decisions and yet not difficult when we think about what some of the consequences can be,” she said.

The researchers said their data points to more than 43,000 cases and potentially as many as 800 deaths that could have been avoided had schooling remained remote.

Figure from School Reopenings, Mobility, and COVID-19 spread: Evidence from Texas, a study from researchers from the University of Kentucky
Figure from School Reopenings, Mobility, and COVID-19 spread: Evidence from Texas, a study from researchers from the University of Kentucky

Still, the study recognizes the other costs of postponing in-person learning on children and their families.

“Such health- and productivity-related losses from COVID-19 must be weighed against learning losses for children, as well as other ancillary effects related to child mental health and abuse and these losses could be substantial but will only become clear over time,” the study notes.

Yelowitz said it’s also important to understand that their study only took data from fall 2020 into consideration — before vaccines were available and when masks were largely still required.

He said they had hoped vaccines would be a “game-changer,” but with vaccinations still not approved for children under age 12 and the delta variant proving to be highly transmissible, they worry it’s “realistic” to brace for even more in-school spread this fall.

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