The Dallas Independent School District announced it will be requiring face coverings temporarily starting Tuesday, in a letter to parents on Monday morning.
"Effective Tuesday, August 10, to protect staff and students from the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, Dallas ISD is temporarily requiring all staff, students and visitors to wear masks when on district property," said the school district.
Dallas ISD said the decision is based on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Dallas County Health officials' announcement, which raised the county's COVID-19 alert to level red, along with consideration of hospitalization rates that are rising at a rapid pace.
Other factors in the decision are children under 12 being un-eligible for vaccinations and virtual learning not being an option, due to lack of state funding, despite school attendance being mandatory.
This accompanies CDC recommendation that children over the age of two wear masks.
The decision seemingly goes against Gov. Greg Abbott's recent order that bans Texas schools from mandating masks.
According to WFAA, Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said in a news conference on Monday that while Abbott is responsible for the state, Hinojosa is responsible for his school district.
"That executive order is very loose according to our attorneys," Hinojosa said. "All this is going to play itself out, and we're not going to be the only ones that are taking this action."
According to the school district, Gov. Abbott’s order doesn't limit the district's rights to establish rules that it deems necessary; students and staff who do not follow the temporary requirement will be disciplined, though consequences are still being determined.
"We're going to ask people to comply first," Hinojosa said. "If you don't comply, you're going to suffer the consequences."
The requirement is effective for all extracurricular activities, athletics, and in some variations for outdoor activities. However, students will be allowed to take off their masks when eating or drinking, according to Hinojosa.
"I'm accountable for everything, so I need to implement whatever safety protocols I feel are in the best interest of our school district," Hinojosa said.
Dallas ISD will contact trace, despite the Texas Education Agency's COVID-19 guidance that stated schools do not have to conduct contact tracing. The TEA's guidance also stated that if a school does contact trace, parents can still allow their child to return to school; Dallas ISD is considering how it will deal with students considered "close contacts" per the guidance.
"This is a temporary solution to a situation that has gotten very grave," Hinojosa said. "Now we're in an urgent crisis."
Another large city school district, Houston ISD, announced it is considering mask requirements and the HISD Board of Education will be voting this week.
For the full Dallas ISD news conference: