As COVID-19 continues its path through Houston, Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II Friday highlighted rules of engagement for the coming school year which include an indoor and bus riding mask mandate for students, no perfect attendance awards and yes, grades will count this year.
Speaking via a Zoom meeting that commenced at 5:30 p.m., House said there would be disciplinary action for students who refused to wear masks indoors although he didn't say specifically what that would be. The district is also requiring masks on school buses and House did say that continued failure to get with the program there would mean a loss of "transportation services."
"Masks must be worn properly, over the nose and the mouth," the superintendent said. Parents of students who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons must provide documentation to their school nurse from their medical doctor.
"Our younger students, in pre-K through third, will be able to have one-minute, non-mask breathing breaks during the school day," he said. "Our priority here is to keep everyone safe. Wearing a mask can help us do so." Elementary students will have their temperatures checked daily.
Students will be asked to not drink directly from water fountains, but to instead use them as "refilling stations," House said, adding that elementary students will be provided two bottles of water each day.
The decision to withhold perfect attendance awards is clearly meant to discourage parents from sending sick children to school who would then possibly contaminate other children. Using mitigation procedures like social distancing (which will be three feet apart when possible this year) and masking, as well as isolating suspected cases of COVID, will mean the district can keep the virus from spreading theough a school as much as possible, House said.
All visitors except for those who arrive at a campus to enroll their children, will only be allowed inside a school if they have a pre-scheduled appointment, House said.
He noted that because retailers are having difficulties this year meeting the renewed demand for school uniforms that uniform requirements will be flexible this year.
A student with a communicable disease and a doctor's explanation can enroll in the temporary online learning program for up to 20 days during the entire school year, House said. The Texas Education Agency requires that any such student does a minimum of four hours of classroom work each day, House said. Students who test positive for COVID-19 must stay home and quarantine from the onset of their symptoms.
Temperatures will be taken and buildings thoroughly cleaned each night, House said. Each school will have a Student Health Isolation Pod reserved for any student showing signs of a communicable disease such as COVID, chicken pox or pink eye.
Superintendent House's address has been recorded and will be available online at HoustonISD.org.