An Austin-area school district on Saturday voted to require masks in buildings and buses, and said that virtual classes may become an option as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
The move comes despite a statewide ban on face coverings in schools imposed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
Lockhart Independent School District Board of Trustees announced a vote of 5-2 on Saturday to require face coverings by students, staff, parents and all other visitors, with exceptions for “an individual’s age, disability, or documented medical condition.”
The ban took effect immediately.
“As of today, the district has a total number of 204 active cases [of COVID-19], of which 181 are student cases,” said Superintendent Mark Estrada in a letter announcing the decision. “There are a total of 781 students who are presently quarantined.”
The district has already closed four classes and a student program due to having 20% or more students diagnosed with COVID-19, Estrada said, adding that students in those classes will be learning virtually from home while they quarantine for 10 days.
“We expect there will be a need to close more classes in the coming weeks, and if any campus should reach 10% or more of students campus-wide who are diagnosed with COVID-19, the district may need to begin closing campuses as well, transitioning students to online learning during the temporary campus closure,” he said.
Other Texas schools have been fighting Abbott’s order in court.
Schools in Florida have also been defying their Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, who issued a similar mask ban, despite threats to withhold funding from districts that did so.
The Wall Street Journal reports that at least 1,000 schools have been forced to close in 31 states since July over COVID-19 infections with the rise of the delta variant.