Most Austin ISD families plan to send their children to school with a mask on this fall, the district reported Aug. 5.

In a survey sent out to parents, 80% of respondents—or 22,091 out of 27,608 respondents—said their child would mask up. The survey showed 83% of parents with elementary school students and 81% of parents of middle school students said their children would wear masks. The rate for high school students was slightly lower at 75%.

AISD representatives have emphasized the importance of masks ahead of the first day of school Aug. 17, although districts are barred from mandating the use of face coverings on campus by the Texas Education Agency. AISD will, however, mandate masks on school buses, with exceptions for people with disabilities that would prevent safe mask-wearing.

"For us, it isn't an argument: masks are the way in which we can keep everyone safe," Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said at an Aug. 4 town hall meeting. "Why would we want to take a risk by not putting a cloth over our nose and mouth?"

Officials at Austin Public Health said during a news briefing Aug. 5 that while public schools in Texas are not permitted to require masks district-wide, a parent has the right to insist that their own child's mask use is enforced at school.

Parents also have the option to opt their elementary-aged children out of on-campus learning entirely. The application for AISD's virtual learning program—which is an option for kindergarten through sixth-graders, who are still below the age of approval for COVID-19 vaccines—closes at midnight Aug. 5. Elizalde said at the town hall she expects that all interested families will be able to participate; however, the district will extend formal offers to families Aug. 9 that must be accepted by Aug. 10.