Houston ISD to Vote on Mask Mandate for Upcoming School Year

Other states, including Arkansas and Florida, are also considering mask mandates for the 2021-2022 academic year

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The largest public school district in Texas is holding a board meeting next week to discuss a potential mask mandate and COVID-19 protocols.

According to a report by KPRC, Houston Independent School District superintendent Millard House II said the board would meet on Thursday to discuss the mandate, which would require all students, faculty, and staff to wear masks while on campus or on a school bus.

KPRC reported that if the mandate is approved, it would go against an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) preventing local governments and schools from mandating face coverings and issuing fines of up to $1,000 for those who fail to comply.

The announcement from Houston ISD comes after House initially said he would not challenge Abbott's order, KPRC reported. The superintendent told KPRC that he is now concerned with the rise of COVID-19 cases in Harris County.

“The health and safety of our students and staff continue to be our guiding compass in all of our decisions," House said. "As a result, during tonight’s agenda review meeting, I announced that I will propose a mask mandate for students, staff, and visitors at all schools, buses, and facilities to be voted on next week by the Board of Education. The rate of COVID-19 cases is rising in our communities and Harris County is now at threat level red."

According to KPRC, the announcement also comes after the Texas Education Agency issued new COVID-19 guidelines and safety protocols for the 2021-2022 school year.

In the guidance released Thursday, the TEA reaffirmed Abbott's executive order that masks cannot be required in classrooms and adding that contact tracing is not required if positive cases of COVID-19 are confirmed in schools.

Similar conflicts over mask mandates are occurring in other states, including Arkansas and Florida.

In Arkansas, the mayor of Little Rock, Frank Scott, Jr., has re-imposed a mask mandate in all public places within the city.

According to a report by KARK, Scott made the announcement Thursday, going against a state law that bans Arkansas city governments from issuing mask mandates. The mandate requires people on a city property or in a city-owned building to wear a face covering.

In light of mayor Scott's mandate, two Arkansas parents are suing the state in an effort to overturn the law prohibiting schools and other governments from requiring face masks.

According to KARK, one of the parents has two children under the age of 12 who cannot get vaccinated. She wants an extra layer of protection for her kids when they return to the classroom, KARK reported.

In Florida, the fight over mask requirements continued this week with the Broward County school district stating that their face covering policy will remain in place.

The Broward County school board issued a mandate last week instructing students, teachers, and staff, including those who are vaccinated, to wear masks in schools when in-person learning resumes on Aug. 18.

Shortly after, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed an executive order prohibiting school districts from mandating masks, threatening to cut funding for districts that don't comply.

Broward Schools released a statement on Monday saying they would comply with DeSantis' order, but Wednesday's statement made their position unclear.

The district said masks are still required in schools and facilities. District officials said they are waiting for further guidance before making a decision about mask requirements during the 2021-2022 school year.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all students and teachers wear face coverings in school during the upcoming academic year.

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