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Texas school districts can decide mask policy themselves, TEA says

With Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide mask mandate ending next week, some school districts are likely to face contentious discussions about what's next.

AUSTIN, Texas — Masks are still required in Texas public schools but local school boards can vote to make them optional, the Texas Education Agency said Wednesday.

The TEA guidance helps clear up confusion created Tuesday when Gov. Greg Abbott announced he was rescinding a statewide mask mandate, but gave no details about how that would affect schools.

Under the updated guidance, the TEA says school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy and the mask requirement may continue unchanged.

That could be a challenging decision in communities deeply divided over how school officials should be responding to the pandemic.

RELATED: List: Here's what Houston-area school districts are doing with statewide mask order lifted

RELATED: Texas teachers, daycare workers now eligible for the COVID vaccine

Most Houston school districts are continuing the mask requirement.

 The state agency recommends that districts consult with local health experts before making a decision.

If masks are still required, the TEA says "every student, teacher and staff member should wear a mask over the nose and mouth when inside a school building, school facility, facility used for school activities or when in an outdoor space on school property is used for school activities."

The requirement does not apply to students younger than 10, those with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent wearing a mask, anyone eating or drinking, anyone exercising outdoors or maintaining a safe distance from others, or anyone giving a speech to an audience.

It also doesn’t apply to districts that were previously exempted from the governor’s executive order, according to the Texas Tribune.

Also Wednesdsay, the Texas Department of State Health Services that school and child care staff are now eligible for vaccines, effective immediately. The news is a big relief for educators concerned about getting COVID-19 on the job.

This story is from our news partners at the Texas Tribune.

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