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Round Rock ISD changing mask mandate opt-out option for 'health or development circumstances' only

The superintendent said on Friday that because of recent legal rulings, he wanted the opt-out provision reserved only for certain circumstances.

ROUND ROCK, Texas — Round Rock ISD will be changing its mask opt-out requirements for "health or developmental circumstances" only after a 5-2 vote Tuesday night.

The new requirement will be in effect starting Thursday and will expire on Sept. 17.

According to the district, parents of students with an opt-out form currently on file will need to resubmit and provide their health or developmental conditions. The district will provide a one-week transition period to allow parents to provide this documentation.

Masks will be available on campus to those who need one, and the temporary requirement will be enforced uniformly for all students, staff and visitors. This means staff will also be required to wear a mask unless they have a health requirement that prevents them from doing so.

Before the latest update, parents could opt their students out of the mask requirement as they wished. The superintendent said on Friday that because of recent legal rulings, he wanted that opt-out provision reserved only for special circumstances.

Last week, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that mask mandates in local schools can stay in place for now.

"My ultimate responsibility is the health and welfare of our students. We must look at the science, listen to the experts, and do what is right to protect them. As several other superintendents who have made the decision to require masks have said, if we’re going to err, I want to err on the side of caution," Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez told KVUE. "As the public health climate continues to rapidly change, we must be willing to adapt and make decisions to protect our community as we know that masks are an essential tool in reducing the spread of COVID-19."

Round Rock ISD's first day was this past Wednesday. Around 3,300 students opted out of the mask mandate on the first day of classes. That was around 6% of the 51,000 students in the district. That grew to 3,600 by the end of the week. A majority of those requests were within high schools and middle schools. 

Though the requirement expires on Sept. 17, the Board of Trustees has a regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 16 and could vote to extend the requirement at that time if conditions warrant.

Students and staff have the option to remove their masks while seated in cafeterias, staff lunchrooms and while outdoors.

The requirement does not apply during athletics, fine arts and physical education classes unless deemed appropriate by the coach, director or instructor.

RRISD said it understands that this new requirement may affect families' decisions regarding in-person learning. Families who are currently enrolled in the district's virtual learning program and wish to transition back to in-person instruction may do so by contacting their home campus registrar's office.

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