New Caney ISD board of trustees approved naming the district's third comprehensive high school West Fork High School at the May 17 school board meeting. Ahead of the school's August 2022 opening, trustees also approved the school colors to be dark green, silver and white, and its school mascot to be the West Fork High School Gators.

The $111 million West Fork High School is under construction at 180 Sorters McClellan Road, Kingwood. The campus, which is part of NCISD's $200 million bond program from May 2018, will open for only freshman its first year and be able to accommodate 1,350 students.

Bridgett Heine, the current principal at Woodridge Forest Middle School, was named the new principal of the incoming school in February. At the May 17 meeting, Heine said the district formed a naming committee who wanted the school's identity to be "unique among Texas high schools."

Named after the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, the school is inspired by its geographical closeness to the river that is west of the school.

"The West Fork ... of the San Jacinto River is prominent, distinctive," Heines said. "The river's adaptable, symbolic, powerful, supportive and transformative—all the things that we felt as a committee represented the ideas of things that we wanted this school to embody."

Updated mask policies

Later in the meeting, Superintendent Matt Calvert provided an update on the district's mask policies for graduations, summer school and the upcoming 2021-22 school year.

NCISD will no longer recommend or require individuals to wear masks beginning June 1 at any district facility, Calvert said. However, the district will continue its sanitary protocols and recommend individuals from different family groups social distance where possible.

As for the 2021-22 school year, Calvert said NCISD is tentatively planning for masks to continue to be optional while only offering on-campus instruction. However, he said the district's policies will likely change.

"We're going to get our kids back in our buildings, so no remote instruction option is being planned at this time," he said. "As we get closer to the start of the school year, we're going to re-evaluate everything else. Turning back time to August 2019 is our hope, so that's what we're planning for [is] to get back to the normal we were doing before the last couple of years."

Teacher compensation

Meanwhile, NCISD trustees also approved compensation plans for the 2021-22 school year, which included a $59,000 starting salary for teachers with retention pay bonuses in November and May of $500. It is a 1.7% increase over the 2020-21 starting teacher salary of $58,000.