Late Thursday, we received a statement from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38 - which prohibits local health authorities such as Austin Public Health and counties from requiring masks in schools - will not be enforced while ongoing litigation proceeds. In addition, late Thursday, we received a new Travis County Order (TCO) and Emergency Austin Public Health (APH) rules affecting schools issued on Aug. 17. Also on Thursday, the Texas Supreme Court upheld three Temporary Restraining Orders allowing local mask rules to prevail over Gov. Abbott’s Order.
At the present time per TEA, Travis County and APH have the authority to require masks and other COVID protocols in schools while litigation proceeds. The new Travis County Order specifically states school districts must now require masks in school, with administrative discretion allowed for not requiring masks during outdoor activities, physical education, extracurriculars, children with special needs and while eating/drinking.
With regard to students, who have a legal right to attend school, the administration believes it is important to get input from the Trustees on how best to enforce masks in schools, which is not defined or established in the new Travis County Order. Until the administration and Board of Trustees discuss the issue, the District strongly encourages all students to wear masks until sufficient notice can be given to parents and students on how the mask mandate will be enforced. The input of our Trustees on this requirement will help determine how best to enforce the new Travis County Order. This will occur in open session at the upcoming Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 24, which will be livestreamed at this link.
As an employer, the District is able to enforce the law through health and safety employment rules. As of today, the current Travis County Order mandates staff must wear masks in our buildings; therefore, starting Monday morning, all Eanes ISD staff are required to wear masks inside buildings and buses.
We sincerely apologize for the rollercoaster we are enduring, but we all have the same objective: a safe, healthy oasis for students and staff in our schools, where they can continue learning and teaching.