Education News

HISD will keep its mask mandate and expand COVID testing as omicron continues to spread

In an email to parents last week, Superintendent Millard House II said the district would maintain its mask mandate “at all district facilities, schools, and buses.”

Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media
An HISD classroom on August 23, 2021.

Houston ISD will keep its mask mandate in 2022 due to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases, Superintendent Millard House II announced last week.

In an email to parents, House said the district would maintain its mask mandate “at all district facilities, schools, and buses,” and observe additional safety measures.

“Please know that we continue to work closely with health officials to monitor data and take additional steps, as needed,” House said. “The safety of our students, staff, and families will remain our top priority and continue to guide our decisions as we navigate unprecedented times.”

The district will also offer free COVID testing for HISD students and staff at participating campuses starting January. A one-time consent form is required for testing.

Additionally, HISD is providing drive-thru COVID-19 testing on the following dates and times:

  • Thursday, December 30, 2021, 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Sam Houston MSTC and Delmar Stadium
  • Thursday, December 30, 2021, 1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Kashmere HS and Lamar HS
  • Sunday, January 2, 2022, 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Chavez HS, Westbury HS, and Westside HS
  • Sunday, January 2, 2022, 1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Bellaire HS and Worthing HS

The news comes as the state — and country — continues to face an omicron-fueled surge of COVID-19 cases. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 10,600 confirmed new COVID cases last Thursday.

According to HISD’s COVID-19 dashboard, there were 403 reported active cases on Monday — 308 of which were students. Texas public schools reported 3,125 new COVID cases among students during the week of Dec. 5, a sharp increase from 434 new reports during the week of Nov. 21, according to state data.

Andrew Dewy with the Houston Federation of Teachers said the union was on board with the decision to extend the mandate, and welcomed the increased access to COVID testing.

“We are desperate to keep schools open. We don’t want to go back to where we were when schools were closed,” Dewy said. “We know that the face-to-face education is the most effective education, and so we are in favor of any measure that will help keep schools open.”