Leander ISD will require masks at its campuses effective Aug. 18, according to an announcement from Superintendent Bruce Gearing.

Masks will be required indoors at school buildings and on buses. The announcement also says masks will be required "during athletics, fine arts and physical education classes, practices and rehearsals unless students are actively exercising, rehearsing or performing indoors."

The temporary districtwide mandate will last through Sept. 10, but the school board could extend the requirement at its Sept. 9 meeting.

"We understand our families and staff feel strongly about masks, individual freedoms and the health crisis," Gearing said in a letter to families. "While there may not be common ground on those issues, we can all agree in-person learning works best for most students. We will do everything we can to stay open and keep our students and staff safe."

The district has reported 95 positive cases between Aug. 16 and 17 as of 4 p.m. Aug. 17. District spokesperson Matt Mitchell said cases are uploaded to its COVID-19 dashboard as they are reported.

There is an option for parents or guardians to opt their students out of the temporary mask requirement, according to the district. Forms can be requested from school campuses.

The district also moved from its yellow to red transmission stage Aug. 17, meaning its indicators "are high or worsening." The change requires cohorting students in pods or groups, limits visitors to essential visitors and closes water fountains, according to district protocols.

This is a change from the district's previous stance that it "highly recommends" masks at schools. The requirement defies Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order, which prohibits mask mandates. But the change follows the masking recommendations from Austin Public Health and Williamson County and Cities Health District, Gearing said.

The school board will also meet Aug. 23 at 6:15 p.m. for a special meeting to "discuss a resolution to require masks and health response protocols," the announcement said.

LISD will hold a vaccine clinic Sept. 2 from 4-8 p.m. at the LISD Technology Building located at 315 S. West Drive, Leander. First and second shots for Moderna and Pfizer and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available. The district will also start a COVID-19 testing site at Gupton Stadium located at 200 Gupton Way Drive, Cedar Park. Testing site details are not available yet.

Neighboring districts

Several nearby school districts have also called for mask mandates. Round Rock ISD, Austin ISD, Eanes ISD, Pflugerville ISD and San Marcos CISD are among the Texas districts requiring masks at school. Austin Community College, which has campuses in Cedar Park and Leander, also issued a mask mandate Aug. 20. Dripping Springs ISD, Lake Travis ISD and Georgetown ISD are not requiring masks as of Aug. 17.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional information about opt-out information, the special-called board meeting and other school district's masking policies.