School districts in Travis County are grappling with two conflicting orders on face masks一one from Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits mask mandates and one from Travis County that requires masks at county public schools.

Amid the clash in guidance, Lake Travis ISD Superintendent Paul Norton said the district will retain its mask-optional policy for students, staff and visitors. Norton said in an Aug. 12 letter to parents the district will respect and support each individual’s personal choice but will strongly encourage wearing masks while inside and on campus.

“We have many parents who want us to defy the governor’s mask order and many others who are demanding that we do not,” Norton wrote in an Aug. 12 letter to parents.

Abbott signed an executive order in May that prohibits government entities such as school districts from implementing mask mandates. However, districts including Austin ISD challenged the governor’s order and announced Aug. 11 that masks will be required on district property.

The same day, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown issued orders requiring masks to be worn on city and county premises, including public school campuses. Notably, the county’s order does not pertain to private businesses.

Abbott’s office then issued a press release Aug. 11 stating, “Any school district, public university or local government official that decides to defy the order will be taken to court.”

At LTISD, Norton said the district will continue to work with its legal counsel to determine the best course of action.

While LTISD will not issue a mask mandate, the district did confirm it will continue its online COVID-19 dashboard, which reports positive coronavirus cases within the district. As of Aug. 12, two employees and zero students tested positive, per the dashboard.

“The pandemic has turned our world of public education upside down. Now more than ever, we must be resilient and come together as one community,” Norton said.