Despite Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's Aug. 12 order mandating face masks to be worn by students and staff at schools and child care centers countywide, face masks will continue to be optional for Humble ISD students, district officials said.

As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, Hidalgo's Aug. 12 order conflicts with Gov. Greg Abbott's May 18 executive order that prohibits local government entities from mandating face masks. Prior to the Aug. 12 order, Hidalgo announced Aug. 10 that Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee had been authorized to take legal action challenging Abbott's executive order.

Both events occurred after Harris County raised its COVID-19 threat level to red—signifying severe risks for unvaccinated individuals—on Aug. 5 due to rising COVID-19 case counts as the delta variant continues to spread. Simultaneously, neighboring school districts including Houston ISD and Spring ISD announced districtwide mask mandates in defiance of Abbott's order.

Shortly after Hidalgo's order, HISD officials issued a statement Aug. 12 stating that the district would continue to follow Abbott's order over Hidalgo's. HISD's 2021-22 school year began Aug. 10.

"Today, Harris county issued an order related to masks and other COVID-19-related directives," the statement reads. "The Harris County order conflicts with the governor's order, which states that no person may be required by any jurisdiction to wear, or to mandate the wearing, of a face covering, and that public schools may operate under guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency. Because the orders conflict, Humble ISD will continue with its current COVID[-19] protocols. Face masks remain optional in Humble ISD."

HISD's current COVID-19 protocols include providing a virtual learning option even though the state did not provide funding in the 87th Texas Legislature for a virtual learning option; keeping COVID-19-positive individuals and anyone with symptoms off campuses until re-entry criteria has been met; publishing and maintaining a COVID-19 dashboard daily; and notifying parents if there is a positive case in their child's elementary classroom.

Additionally, HISD will continue to utilize clean air technology; outdoor spaces for eating, playing and learning; and implementing enhanced cleaning protocols including fogging.

"Humble ISD hopes to offer students a great school year that includes in-person classes, extracurricular activities, and parents welcome back on campuses to volunteer and attend events," the statement reads.

For more information about HISD's current COVID-19 protocols, click here.