HOUSTON — As COVID-19 cases and resultant hospitalizations skyrocket in Texas and the fall school semester approaches, the state’s largest school district may be taking protections into its own hands.

What You Need To Know

  • Houston ISD school board will vote on a mask mandate next week

  • If enacted, the mandate would require students, staff members and visitors to wear masks in all school facilities and on buses

  • By executive order, Texas school districts are prohibited from enacting mask mandates 

  • More than 8,000 Texans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and the state is reporting thousands of additional cases each day

Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II on Thursday said the school board next week will consider a mask mandate that would require all students and employees to don facial protection in facilities and on buses.

The potential ratification of the mandate next week comes as such measures are officially banned in Texas by executive order. Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this year banned them, and last week he issued a second, unifying order that prohibits cities and other state government agencies from enacting mask or vaccine mandates.

“As you all know, the safety of our HISD staff and students is my top priority,” House said in a video statement Thursday. “As a result, during tonight’s agenda review, I moved forward to announce that I will propose a mask mandate. This mask mandate will be for our students, staff and visitors at all of our schools, buses and facilities, to be voted on next Thursday in our board meeting.”

Harris County, which includes Houston and the surrounding area, is the largest and most populous county in Texas and has reported the highest COVID-19 case count. According to state data, as of Thursday there have been 430,218 cases of the virus in Harris County since the pandemic began in early 2020.

“The mask mandate will become effective, upon board approval, during next Thursday’s board meeting,” House continued. “In light of this announcement by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner that they are raising the COVID threat level to red, additional safety measures are needed to protect students, staff and families.”

“This mask mandates applies to everyone regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated,” House said.

 So far there has been no response from Gov. Abbott.