Austin ISD students return to school fully-masked as Texas mandate battle goes on

Set for School

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Independent School District students returned to school on Tuesday, fully masked and in line with local health orders.

Inside Sanchez Elementary, little children sat in rows with their masks covering the nose and mouth. Much of the same could be seen within the newly renovated Eastside Early College High School, where teens walked through the halls and took notes in classrooms, fully complying with the mask mandate.

The district said 1,157 students opted-out of virtual learning after AISD announced masks would be required on campus. Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde said she’ll maintain that stance until local health leaders say it’s okay to do otherwise.

“During the period of time when the data says that this is something we need to do, we’ll do it,” Elizalde said. “When the data says that it’s okay to go back to relaxing our masking, we will do that as well.”

But not everyone is pleased with the policy.

One father of an elementary aged child told KXAN he will be adhering to Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order, which says masks should be a parent’s choice.

For cases like this, AISD officials said they’re working on building trust with dissenting families to ensure they understand district policies. An AISD spokesperson also said the supply of masks is large enough to offer one to any child who needs it.

“Our community, while they may have differences of opinion, are coming together to say, ‘Let’s do this for everyone, together,” Elizalde said. “When doctors in our community are telling us that they need our help, shouldn’t we teach each other that we are about community helping community?”

Teachers KXAN spoke to on Tuesday said they were happy to have kids back at campus to learn in-person.

“Education is much different when you have the ability to meet students face to face,” said Dr. Sanford Jeames, an educator at Eastside Early College High School. “We have a new beginning. Not just in a new school, but all across the nation and the world. They’re really looking at young people to guide us into an unplanned and unstructured future.”

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at (512) 703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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