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Gov. Greg Abbott stresses local school officials "know best" whether schools should reopen

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott stressed Tuesday that only local school boards, not local governments, have the power to decide how to open schools this fall during the coronavirus pandemic.


"The bottom line is the people who know best ... about that are the local school officials," Abbott said during a news conference in San Antonio, echoing a message he's been relaying in response to questions about the process.

Texas educators and parents have been confused about who has the power to keep school buildings closed. They have also been frustrated by conflicting messages from state and local leaders.

Abbott also said that in preparation for the new school year, the state has already distributed to schools more than 59 million masks, more than 24,000 thermometers, more than 565,000 gallons of hand sanitizer and more than 500,000 face shields. He promised schools "will have their [personal protective equipment] needs met at no cost" to them, with the state picking up the tab.

In general, he described the state's personal protective equipment levels as bountiful even as the state faces an "an even greater strain" on the supply due to the coming school reopenings and flu season.

Abbott and other state leaders have backed a legal opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton that prohibits local health authorities from issuing blanket school closures for all schools in their jurisdiction before the academic year begins. Local school boards can decide to keep schools closed to in-person learning for up to eight weeks, with the possibility to apply for waivers to remain shuttered beyond that timeframe.

Under the state's guidance, local health officials can only intervene if there is an outbreak once students return to campus, at which point they can temporarily shut down a school.

Abbott stressed Tuesday that the policy does not mean that local health authorities are cut out of the reopening process, saying local school boards are free to consult with the health experts.

"Nothing is stopping them from doing that, and they can fully adopt whatever strategy the local public health authority says," Abbott said.

The state's guidance has overruled orders from local health authorities to keep schools closed to in-person learning for certain periods. For example, Metro Health in Bexar County had ordered schools to remain virtual until Sept. 7.

As for the personal protective equipment for schools, the Texas State Teachers Association said it was not nearly enough.

"The governor's optics today on PPE is a drop in the bucket, compared to what will be needed if schools are forced to reopen before it's safe," the union's president, Ovidia Molina, said in a statement. "59.4 million masks are roughly 11 masks per student. That might get students through the first week of school."

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Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.

The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.

Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.

As Austin FC took the stage for their first-ever match, they appeared more experienced than their track record. The club held LAFC to a scoreless first half, keeping about equal possession of the ball.

In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks.

The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.

"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."

LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.

As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.

Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal.

LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one in to the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.

While some last minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.

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The long-awaited day is here; Austin FC takes the field with LAFC. (Austonia)

It's matchday! Austin FC—Austin's first major league sport team—kicks off its debut season in Los Angeles today after years in the making. We know how much this means to our beloved city and are taking you along with us as we journey to LA!

Austin FC writer Claire Partain and I are excited to bring you game-day coverage straight from the City of Angels. Check back here for updates, and visit our socials: @austonianews for the latest.

5 p.m: Kickoff!

It's finally here! Claire will be updating Austonia's Twitter account live. And we'll post her game recap after the game. Best of luck Verdes!

4:40 p.m: Excitement radiates back home

Watch parties are in plenty supply back home. Austonia's Laura Figi visited Circle Brewing Co. and found a crowd of excited supporters.

4:20 p.m: Austin FC supporters are in the stadium

Although the Banc of California Stadium is hosting the match at limited capacity, we see some green in the stands ahead of kickoff. Just moments away from the Austin FC's debut!

~3:20 p.m: Austin FC's team bus enters the stadium grounds

With a warm welcome from Los Verdes, Austin FC players were welcomed into the Banc of California Stadium.

~1 p.m: Los Verdes in LA

(Rigo Rodriguez/Los Verdes)

Austin FC supporters are making their presence known in LA, including the Los Verdes group.

Los Verdes members started having match-day fun around the area this morning with brunch. We'll be joining them about an hour before the game outside the stadium to share some of their excitement. We'll post immediately to Austonia's Instagram.

11:45 a.m: We landed!

View from hotel room where we're staying; the stadium digital sign can be seen in the right corner. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)

Switching over to pacific time, we're here and it's almost like no time went by. It's 9:45 a.m. here.

We've been in contact with Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, who is also here in LA counting down to kickoff.

8:20 a.m: LA bound

Like many of you, we've been looking forward to this moment for, let's just say, a very long time. Today, we woke up bright and early, headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and hopped on a flight to LA.

A gloomy day in Austin with a very quiet airport, we're headed to sunny skies in California.

As we wait for the game to start at 4:30 p.m., check out Claire's preview of the game with a predicted lineup and timeline of the long journey to get here.