HISD superintendent says decision to propose mask mandate was 'based on science'

Tuesday, August 10, 2021
HISD superintendent cites science and data for mask mandate proposal
"My intent was solely focused on what we felt was best in Harris County and HISD," said newly-hired superintendent Millard House.

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.

READ MORE: HISD superintendent to propose mask mandate in all schools

"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.

SEE ALSO: Texas Dems want Gov. Abbott to reverse course on school mask mandate ban

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.

MORE: Fort Bend, Conroe ISD will offer limited virtual learning option for some students

These two Houston-area school districts will offer limited virtual components amid the COVID surge. Here's how it will work.

More Texas schools release COVID-19 protocols ahead of 2021-2022 school year

Texas private schools have more flexibility with COVID-19 protocols as cases rise, while public schools are getting creative in ways to keep kids safe.

For updates on this report, follow ABC13 anchor Chauncy Glover on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.