None of the three districts have imposed a mask mandate for 2021-22, although other Houston-area school districts have chosen to do so in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s order prohibiting mandates. Harris County Public Health issued a mask mandate Aug. 12 for the county’s schools and facilities.
PISD highly recommends masks for all students, staff and visitors while indoors. While PISD is not enforcing mask-wearing, all district nurses have access to rapid COVID-19 tests for students if a parent gives consent, said Larry Berger, the district’s assistant superintendent of support service.
PISD Superintendent John Kelly said the district is also limiting visitors and using a COVID-19 dashboard to track cases. The district recommends people maintain 3 feet of distancing from each other.
As the PISD board met in closed session Aug. 16, PISD and AISD community members demonstrated in favor of mask mandates outside of PISD’s administration building at 1928 N. Main St., Pearland.The group aims for PISD and AISD to implement universal mask mandates from kindergarten to 12th grade and for the mandates to remain until the recent COVID-19 surge gets under control. The group’s other goal is for PISD to fund remote learning.“I don’t want to be scared when I leave the house and go to school,” Pearland Junior High West student Amanda Barsan said.
PISD board member Toni Carter said Aug. 16 she had received 78 parent emails regarding masks, 10 of which were from those opposed to a mandate and 68 of which were in favor of a mandate.
Meanwhile, FISD’s facilities will not be modified to allow for social distancing. In regard to face coverings, families and employees are encouraged “to make the best decision for themselves, and we expect all staff, students and visitors to respect the choice of others,” health mitigation protocols state.
Several parents, including those with immunocompromised students as well as a pediatrician, voiced concerns about the use of face coverings during the public comment portion of the board’s Aug. 9 regular meeting. No one who spoke at that meeting was opposed to mask-wearing.
FISD board members David Montz and Tony Hopkins said Aug. 9 they expect the protocols to be revisited frequently based on pandemic trends. “I think we’re going to see some fluidity [because] this has ramped up,” Montz said of the virus and its recent spread. “We need to just do what our constituents want us to do.”
AISD students and staff will maintain social distancing whenever possible, and masking indoors is strongly recommended. District language around masking has gone from “optional” to “highly encouraged” to “strongly recommended” between mid-July and mid-August, AISD Director of Communications Renae Rivas said.
The district has heard from stakeholders both for and against requiring a mask, but no formal survey was conducted, Rivas said.
“In Alvin ISD, we are obligated to follow the law,” she said via email. “Therefore, we will strongly recommend masks.”