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Austin Community College mandates masks for the fall semester, takes issue to court

Effective Aug. 20, ACC will require anyone age two or older to wear a face mask in all buildings.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Friday, the Austin Community College District’s (ACC) Board of Trustees unanimously approved new temporary measures for the fall 2021 semester.

Effective Aug. 20, ACC will require anyone age two or older to wear a face mask in all ACC buildings. This is in line with the City of Austin and Travis County's mandate to wear masks in government buildings and public schools, including colleges. 

“As the board of trustees of the college, we have the responsibility and the authority to protect the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students, and visitors. Medical data indicates a massive increase in cases has occurred over the past few weeks,”  ACC Board Chair Nan McRaven said. “We are a community college with open campuses serving the Central Texas community, and many ACC students are high schoolers as young as 14 years old."

According to ACC, the college will reduce the number of students and employees on campus when the fall semester begins. Many courses will be held online for the first three weeks of the semester from Aug. 23 through Sept. 12. ACC said courses that require in-person instruction, including labs, will still be held on campus. 

Beginning Aug. 16, ACC also will require all visitors, students and staff to complete the college’s self-screening on its health app in order to monitor regional COVID-19 impacts.

On Tuesday, Aug. 17, the ACC board unanimously authorized its administration and legal council to challenge the governor's executive order banning mask mandates and "seek clarification in the courts of the board's authority to adopt safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic."

In a statement, ACC said a community college board has independent legal authority under state law to adopt policies, rules and regulations to protect the health and safety of its students, faculty and staff. It said at this time, this issue is not being litigated in any of the current legal proceedings related to school mask mandates.

“As elected officials who are empowered by the State to oversee this district and make decisions that are determined to be in the best interest of the district, we need to understand the lines of authority,” said Dr. Nan McRaven, ACC board chair. “This is an important, bold move by this board to ensure the health and safety of our community and gain clarity on the law.”

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