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Several of Texas’ largest school districts defy governor, impose mask mandates

Kendall Tietz, DCNF

The school districts of Dallas and Austin, Texas will require masks to keep students and staff more protected against the COVID-19 delta variant surge.

The decisions announced by each school districts’ superintendent on Monday contradict Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order restricting mask mandates in schools.

The Dallas Independent School District is Texas’ second-largest district and will begin requiring masks at the district’s 230 schools starting Tuesday for a temporary, but indefinite period.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said at a news conference that he is responsible for the safety of students, staff and their families as the situation surrounding the delta variant becomes “significantly more urgent.” He said he will impose whatever safety protocols he believes to be in the best interest of the district.

Austin Independent School District, the fifth largest in Texas, will start requiring masks for its 125 schools on Wednesday. The move was announced by Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde at a school board meeting Monday.

The mask requirement is an attempt to protect the students who aren’t eligible for vaccination, Board President Geronimo M. Rodriguez Jr., said at the meeting, citing the fact that children under 12 are not authorized to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I am responsible for the safety, health and welfare of each and every one of our students and our staff,” Elizalde said in a statement. “If I err, I must err on the side of ensuring that we’ve been overly cautious, not that we have fallen short.”

Both the Austin and Dallas school district mask requirements go against Abbott’s May executive order that bans schools and other government structures from imposing mask mandates.

The Austin school district said its decision was based on guidance from the CDC that recommends “all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status” mask indoors, which they say they have had success with in the past, according to AISD’s statement.

Dallas Independent School District pointed to warnings from county officials that “hospitalizations are rising at the fastest rate since the pandemic began, among all age groups, including children,” to justify mask requirements, according to the statement. Texas was at 10,041 hospitalizations on Monday, up from 1,591 on July 1, according to data from the Texas’ Department of State Health Services tracker.

The Dallas school district also said the governor’s order “does not limit the district’s rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students.”

Houston Independent School District will vote on whether or not to implement a mask mandate at a Thursday meeting, NBC affiliate, Click 2 Houston reported.

Hinojosa and Elizalde did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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