Education

HISD Superintendent Stands Firm on Masks, But Says Stay Tuned

The numbers keep going up.
The numbers keep going up. Screenshot, Texas Medical Center

As Houston area COVID hospitalizations skyrocket to their highest point ever and involve an increasing number of children, effective this week, Houston ISD is requiring masks for everyone who enters one of the district's facilities or rides one of its buses: students, parents and visitors.

HISD is maintaining its mandate despite several court battles involving Gov. Greg Abbott's office which  seeks to uphold the governor's executive order banning mask mandates.

As we reported last week, in a Friday video address House said there would be disciplinary consequences for students who refuse to wear a mask. 

House had announced the mandate midweek, an administrative decision that received a supportive vote from the school board last Thursday night. Several people attending that school board meeting protested the requirement, asserting, among other things, that children don't get COVID-19 and that masks offer no protection.  At the same time, however, trustees said they had received hundreds of emails from other parents, begging them to require masks in schools to protect their children.

Since then, there have been several court proceedings between different school districts and Abbott, who wants to leave it up to personal responsibility. School boards in Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas have voted to defy Abbott's ban and require masks in an attempt to slow spread of the virus — especially since the arrival of the more contagious Delta varient.

According to a statement to the HISD community from House:

"At this time, it is the district's position that HISD's COVID-19 safety protocols have not been impacted by court cases related to mask requirements issued by county judges in jurisdictions other than Harris County.," House wrote.

"When the Texas Supreme Court ruling was issued on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021, neither Harris County nor HISD were before the court as parties in the matters filed by the Dallas and Bexar county judges. It is important to note that earlier today, the Governor petitioned the Texas Supreme Court to add Harris County to the named parties in this ongoing litigation. The court has not issued a ruling on the Governor's request."

He went on to say that as the court cases proceed the district will apprise parents of any changes in policy.

On Monday, the Texas Medical Center was reporting a positivity rate of 14.9 percent  which puts it solidly in the red zone for community spread. Hospitals are swamped with patients and, in fact, are recording higher levels than in July 2020, the previous high in cases. Elective surgeries have been put on hold to make room for all the COVID patients. 
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing