The district announced it would require masking starting Aug. 11 during a special meeting just before 10 p.m. Aug. 9, though the governor’s order blocks schools and the Texas Education Agency from making face masks a requirement. Entities that go against the order are subject to a fine of up to $1,000, though the order does not specify how the penalty would be applied to school districts. The mask mandate includes staff, students and visitors.
“In a society where interests conflict there can be no absolute response that will rest with all constituents and stakeholders,” Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said at the meeting. “If I err, I must err on the side of ensuring that we have been overly cautious.”
Austin ISD is following in the footsteps of Dallas ISD, which announced Aug. 9 that it would require students and teachers to wear masks. Houston ISD plans to vote on a mask mandate Aug. 12 while the Southern Center for Child Advocacy, an education nonprofit, filed a lawsuit in Travis County against the governor and his executive order Sunday night, the Texas Tribune reported.
Sixty community members made public comments at the start of the Austin ISD Board of Trustees meeting, all expressing their support for a mask mandate.
“Please help us get to the finish line,” said Krisdee Donmoyer during public comments at the Austin ISD meeting. Donmoyer said her 9-year-old son has comorbidities that make him vulnerable to COVID-19. “If you go out on this limb, you will have my support and the support of many families.”
Many parents expressed anxiety about nearly full ICUs in the area. Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority, asked the community to come together to “stave off disaster,” in a statement Aug. 7 that warned hospital bed availability is extremely limited.
Walkes presented at the meeting, telling trustees that as of her presentation, 191 people of all ages were in area ICUs with COVID-19, 116 were on ventilators and there had been 74 admissions and 56 discharges in the last 24 hours.
Walkes also pointed to the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19. While in June, the Austin metro saw one child hospitalized with the virus, in July there were 12.