As area school districts already open for the school year show increasing numbers of students and staff who've contracted COVID-19, Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II has proposed giving $500 to every district employee who is fully vaccinated.
At a special school board meeting today starting at 9 a.m., trustees unanimously approved House's recommendation in a 7-0 vote (with Judith Cruz and Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca absent). To be eligible for the extra payment, each employee will have to show proof of the vaccination by November 19, 2021. The program is expected to cost $14 million. Employees with medical conditions or disabilities that keep them from receiving the vaccine will also be eligible for the stipend with documentation from a doctor.
"Vaccination affords protection from the virus, supports wellness, and lessens the need for absences from school and work, while reducing the potential spreading of the virus to students and staff," House's recommendation stated.
The board also approved the administration's proposal to add additional paid sick leave days to employees who can show they were out due to COVID-19.
HISD classes are scheduled to start Monday, In defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott's order barring mask mandates, House — with the support of the school board — is requiring all students, employees and visitors either in the district's buildings or on its school buses to wear masks. The board Thursday also voted unanimously to ratify the friend of the court brief the district filed in opposition to the governor's order prohibiting the mask mandates.
The Paris ISD recently made news by making wearing masks part of its dress code, noting that its board has the exclusive power to set its own dress code.
A check of some area school districts this morning showed Katy ISD has recorded 428 cases in total since June 1 with 264 active now. Of those active cases, 163 involve students with the majority of them being elementary school students still not able to receive a COVID vaccine.
In Fort Bend ISD, which like several districts throughout the state is following Abbott's no mask mandate by encouraging but not requiring masks, from August 8-18 there have been 527 positive COVID-19 cases reported, 447 involving students.
HISD's COVID tracking page shows 3,838 positive COVID cases since the count began in September 2020. Among the 196,171 student cases recorded there, the overwhelming majority come from elementary school classes.