Most Bexar County voters believe local schools should continue to enforce mask policies for students and staff, according to the latest Bexar Facts/KSAT/San Antonio Report poll.

Many San Antonio-area school districts instituted mask mandates for anyone who enters school facilities, despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting public entities from requiring masks. The mask mandates came as the delta variant led to a late-summer spike in people testing positive for the coronavirus and being hospitalized.

The poll conducted late last month asked registered Bexar County voters whether local schools should continue to enforce mask policies for students and staff, and 74% of respondents said they agreed.

In August, Northside ISD, the county’s largest district with more than 100,000 students, joined dozens of other Texas school districts suing Abbott over his executive order. Northside ISD announced Wednesday that masks will be optional but “strongly encouraged” beginning Monday due to fewer students and staff members testing positive over the past few weeks.

“In spite of this decision to modify our position, we are confident that during this school year the number of positive cases in our district has been manageable partially because of the use of face masks,” the district said on its website. “Therefore, as we continue to monitor the number of positive cases in our schools, we are prepared to reinstate the mask mandate district-wide, or at specific campus(es), if confirmed COVID cases rise significantly.”

In the Bexar Facts poll, all respondents who identified their political outlook as liberal agreed with schools enforcing mask policies. Most of those who identified as conservative (53%) or very conservative (60%) said they disagreed. A majority of Latino and white respondents agreed with schools continuing to enforce mask-wearing.

Bexar Facts released its findings Tuesday after pollsters interviewed 602 registered Bexar County voters Sept. 21-27 online and over the phone in English and Spanish. The margin of error is +/- 4%. Results from the poll, which covers a wide range of social and political issues, are available online at www.bexarfacts.org.

In the poll, only people with children under age 18 were asked to respond to education-related questions. Out of the 602 total voters interviewed, 172 answered questions about masks in schools and learning loss during the pandemic, including 69 mothers and 101 fathers.

About half of parents said they felt like their children had fallen behind academically in the past year. That is down from March, when the last Bexar Facts poll showed that 68% of respondents believed their kids had fallen behind in school.

Liberal and conservative respondents were evenly split on whether their children had suffered academically in the past year, with a little more than half of liberal and conservative voters disagreeing. About half of white respondents agreed, while more than half of Latino respondents disagreed that their students had fallen behind academically.

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.