Austin-area district defies Abbott on school masks ban

An Austin-area school district is defying Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) ban on face masks in schools as COVID-19 cases tick up for the district.

The Lockhart Independent School District Board of Trustees announced Saturday that masks for all students, staff, parents and visitors would be required in buildings and on buses. 

The announcement came after a 5-2 board vote. It goes into effect immediately and allows for some exemptions depending on a person’s age, medical condition or disability. 

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The announcement states that there are 204 active COVID-19 cases in the district with 781 students under quarantine. Four classes had to be moved online and a student program had to be canceled due to the number of coronavirus cases.

The board also told parents a virtual learning option is under consideration due to the pandemic situation.

The mask mandate goes directly against Abbott’s executive order banning schools from requiring students to wear masks. 

Texas schools have been battling Abbott’s executive order in court due to the rise in delta variant cases around the country.

Thousands of students around the country had to quarantine after school began due to COVID-19 outbreaks, but many districts are reluctant to move completely to virtual learning.

There have been at least 1,000 schools that have closed in 31 states since July due to the coronavirus, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Throughout the pandemic, Texas has recorded more than 3.7 million cases and more than 58,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The state has 49 percent of its population fully vaccinated.