Gov. Greg Abbott told lawmakers Thursday morning that students will return to campus this fall, the Texas Tribune reported.
Abbott made this announcement weeks ahead of the start of the school year for many districts, including exactly two months before Austin ISD is set to return. Earlier this week, Abbott said during a press conference that he expected students to be able to return to on-campus learning come August.
A spokesperson confirmed to the Tribune that education commissioner Mike Morath determined it would be safe for students to return and that schools will not be required to mandate students to wear masks or get tested for coronavirus.
Lawmakers on the conference call with Abbott also were told that schools will be able to offer learning alternatives for those who do not feel comfortable returning to the classroom.
Austin ISD in recent weeks began considering a combination of in-person and remote teaching for students, in an effort that could reduce the total number of people on campus at any given time.
"It is important to remember that health-related data points and guidance from public health officials have led and will continue to inform decisions in this rapidly changing environment. As such, any suggested educational models could change due to circumstances," the district wrote in an email to parents.
TEA plans to issue further guidance next Tuesday on how to manage the return of students to campuses around the state amid the pandemic, which has seen spikes in case counts and hospitalizations in Travis County over the last two weeks.
But models of the pandemic's spread in Austin and around the country can change, causing some experts to say that decisions about issues like in-person public school, more than two months out, are being made too soon.
Despite Morath saying school districts would not be required to force students to wear facial coverings to class, AISD said in a statement Wednesday that mask-wearing is still under consideration as a possible change for the fall semester. The district is also looking at screening staff and students for COVID-19 upon arrival to campus, increasing disinfection of common areas and surfaces and adding more hand-washing and sanitizing stations to buildings
This story has been updated from the original.
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