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Azle ISD makes masks ‘optional’ for students, staff members at school and school-sponsored activities

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The question of masks has been a complicated one in the state of Texas, for business owners, for officials and for residents.

First, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a mandate that made it sound like local officials couldn’t require everyone to wear masks, but he later clarified that his orders (from April 27 on), allowed businesses to require that their customers to wear masks, Texas Monthly reported in June.

In May, Abbott issued an executive order that prohibited “governmental entities in Texas — including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials — from requiring or mandating mask wearing. Public schools may continue to follow current mask-wearing guidelines through June 4. After June 4, no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus,” the May 18 news release reads.

School districts have had to face the question of whether to make students, staff and visitors wear masks, and at Azle Independent School District, the mask requirement was removed on April 22, the superintendent said.

“Masks are optional for all Azle students and staff members during the school day and at school-sponsored activities,” said Todd Smith, superintendent of Azle Independent School District.

In March, Abbott lifted the mask mandate, and increased the capacity of businesses and facilities. Two months later, the state reported zero deaths attributed to COVID-19, the first time in 14 months, according to an ABC-13 report. And that followed the Centers for Disease Control announcement that those who have been vaccinated can safely participate in many activities without wearing masks.

Abbott’s May 18 order states that state-supported living centers, government-owned or operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities (including juvenile justice), county and municipal jails are exempt.

Abbott isn’t the only governor to raise controversy with his mask mandates – his actions have been contrasted with those of Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida. Back in October, DeSantis lifted all COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, to the surprise of school employees across the state.

DeSantis insisted that school districts open for in-person classes, and has said that cities that enforced ordinances requiring masks couldn’t enforce them.  

A more recent order, issued on May 3, ended local restrictions and mandates related to COVID-19, except school districts, the Tampa Bay Times reported.