HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- This Thursday, HISD's board of trustees will decide whether or not to implement a districtwide mask mandate.
Newly-hired superintendent Millard House announced his proposal last week. HISD's mask mandate would be for all students, staff and visitors at all of their schools, buses and facilities. The mandate would become effective upon board approval.
The decision comes on the heels of Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order barring government entities in Texas, including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, and government officials, from requiring or mandating the use of masks.
House told ABC13's Chauncy Glover he's not bucking the governor and said the decision was based on science and data to keep students and staff safe.
"The last thing I want as a brand new superintendent in the largest school district in the state is any smoke or heat with the governor," said House. "That's not my intent here. My intent was solely focused on what we felt was best in Harris County and HISD."
House made his announcement on the mask mandate proposal hours after Judge Lina Hidalgo raised Harris County's COVID-19 threat level to "severe," meaning that there is an uncontrolled level of the virus, outbreaks are present and worsening, and testing and contact tracing capacity are strained or exceeded.
In addition, the more-contagious delta variant of COVID is also sparking concerns as younger students appear to be increasingly impacted. This worries some parents since young children aren't eligible to get the vaccine.
House said his decision to bring forward a proposal is personal, citing the safety of his own children.
"I have two students that'll be in HISD, and one of them falls directly in that category. He's too young to receive the vaccine," he said. "My other child is old enough and she's received the vaccine along with my wife and (me). It's not just an organizational decision, it's a personal decision for me as a parent. I'd be lying if I didn't have some worry about what's going on right now."
House said when he arrived in Houston five weeks ago, the community spread rate was at 4%. Now, it's over 16%. Experts said the data shows it's going to get even worse once school starts.