(The Center Square) – Debate has raged across the country over mask requirements for school students, but new spending records show how much masks have cost taxpayers for a particular group of students at one district.
In Texas, it became a legal battle when a federal judge overruled Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning schools from instituting mask mandates.
In March 2022, many school districts in Texas began to lift mask mandates.
Financial records from the Austin Independent School District reveal how much it cost taxpayers to provide masks in one aspect of school: Athletics.
The school district spent $63,750 to buy masks for its student-athletes, according to spending documents obtained by The Center Square through an open records request.
That money was used to buy one reusable face mask for each athlete at every campus, high school and middle school, a district official said. That figure does not include disposable masks that were used on the campuses for spectators. Those costs were incurred by the service center. The money for the reusable face masks came from the federal COVID-19 funds. Overall, the district got $242.1 million in COVID-19 relief money.
“The district’s face mask guidelines have changed multiple times throughout the pandemic,” district spokesperson Nayeli Santoyo said in an email. “At the beginning, masks were required at all times, even during sports. Then we shifted to wearing masks only while not actively engaged in exercise. At the current time, face masks are not required by any individuals.”
The district had 74,645 students enrolled in the 2021-2022 school year.