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'I'm anticipating a repeat of last fall' | Growing concerns about upcoming school year due to mask rules, vaccination rates among kids

Some Houston-area districts are still recommending masks since they can't require them.

HOUSTON — The Houston Zoo is among the places families are seeking fun in the waning weeks of summer.

"I'm going to kindergarten," one child said while she was at the Zoo with her family.

A new school year is just around the corner.

“I’m really not concerned about it (COVID-19)," mother Yesenia Chavez said. "I just want her to get her education, in person, as she should.”

Most schools will be 100% in-person, unlike last year.

RELATED: Houston ISD returning to 100% in-person instruction for 2021-22 with 15 additional days of learning

Additionally, due to Gov. Greg Abbott's order reiterated by TEA guidance, school systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask.

RELATED: Governor Abbott issues Executive Order to stop most government entities from mandating masks

That's something even Julio Ochoa’s vaccinated children still plan to do.

I believe that we should be wearing the mask," Ochoa said. "You should be wearing the mask if you’re vaccinated or not.”

That’s exactly what the American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending kids do in the classroom. It's something a number of districts also plan to recommend in the new school year. Existing hand-washing and sanitizing protocols put into place amid the pandemic will remain as well.

“I’m anticipating a repeat of last fall,” said Houston Federation of Teachers president Jackie Anderson.

Anderson was not optimistic given the rates of vaccinations among eligible students and said those in charge are too focused on making things normal when they’re not.

"They’re thinking they can wish it away and we know that’s not going to happen,” Anderson said.

A number of districts will continue to partner with health departments and other entities to administer vaccines to those who choose to get them although the youngest of students don’t yet qualify.

"We want to protect the students and staff in our schools, in our school district and in the state," said Maria Johnson, BSN, RN of Fort Bend ISD's health services department. "So it’s always advised that they receive the vaccines that are recommended."

Dickinson ISD mother Cheryl Thomas, who brought three kids to the Zoo, said she's preparing them as much as possible.

"We went over a lot on hand-washing and hand sanitizing and all that," said Thomas. "So, I think they’ll be fine.”

The TEA said it’s in constant contact with Abbott's office regarding any new changes to its health and safety guidance plan.

-Alief ISD Statement:

Face coverings are optional for staff and students and Alief continues to work with local health and charitable organizations to promote vaccinations for staff and age-appropriate students. The district's cleaning protocols and monitoring systems will remain in place.

-Clear Creek ISD Statement:

Local school districts cannot require face coverings per Governor Abbot’s GA-36 Executive Order after June 4, 2021. Also, legislation failed to pass to fund online learning, so we had to cancel our plans to offer Clear Connections Online Program for the 2021-2022 school year.

-Cy-Fair ISD statement:

The Governor’s Order prohibits school districts from requiring staff and students to wear face masks. Therefore, face masks will be recommended but not be required in CFISD.

The State did not pass a virtual learning bill; CFISD will be 100% in-person for the 2021-2022 school year.

CFISD, in partnership with Harris County Public Health Department (HCPH), offered Pfizer vaccines to age-eligible students and staff at four campuses this summer. The vaccine was also offered at all 12 high schools for age-eligible students and staff, and at the Berry Center for the community prior to the end of the 2020-2021 school year. The district will continue to offer vaccine opportunities and encourage staff and age-eligible students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. CFISD staff will also recommend the use of face masks when inside CFISD facilities and promote the benefits of frequent hand washing, cough/sneeze etiquette, and staying home from work or school when sick.

-Fort Bend ISD statement:

In accordance with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order, effective June 5, 2021, students, staff, parents, and visitors will no longer be required to wear masks in schools or in District buildings. However, any individual may wear a mask if they choose to do so. Personal choice about mask wearing is to be respected at all times by all staff, students, parents, and visitors. Face coverings protect not only the wearer, but also significantly reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Guidance from the CDC, as well as local and state health agencies, recommends that people who are unvaccinated wear facial coverings.

-Galveston ISD Statement:

Galveston ISD is a public school district and in accordance with Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order, face coverings will be optional in all district facilities.

Galveston ISD will be offering full in-person learning beginning August 23, 2021.

We offer free on-site vaccines to our staff, student’s and the community for anyone age 12+ (parent permission). We do not have policy mandating vaccines.

We will take into consideration any recommendations offered by the CDC, TEA, and Galveston County Health District between now and the start of school.

-Houston ISD statement:

Per Governor Abbott’s executive order in June, masks are not required on school campuses, but are allowed. HISD plans to return to 100% in-person learning in 2021-2022.

-Klein ISD Statement:

Klein ISD will continue to follow TEA health and safety guidelines for the upcoming school year.

-Pearland ISD Statement:

The decision on masks no longer belongs to individual Texas schools or school districts. In June, the Governor required that masks are now designated as "optional" statewide. Additionally, I’m sure you’re aware of the School Health Operations Requirements issued by TEA in early June, which also addressed that masks must be optional per the Governor’s Executive Order.

With the understanding that all students return to on-campus learning for 2021-22, we do want to maintain those health-related provisions that can remain. Please see the following for a bit more information: https://www.pearlandisd.org/proceedingwithpurspose.

In regards to vaccinations, Pearland ISD partnered with the City of Pearland throughout the spring for employees who wanted to get the vaccine. In June, the district partnered with Kroger Pharmacy on a vaccination clinic for Pearland ISD families and students 12 years of age and older. We have and will continue to share our COVID vaccine information web page with employees and families who are interested in getting the vaccine: Health Services / COVID-19 Vaccine Information (pearlandisd.org).

Of course, we will continue to monitor developments and recommendations (e.g. from the CDC and local health officials) and adjust our procedures accordingly, providing we can do so lawfully.

-Spring ISD Statement:

This year, in alignment with the Governor of Texas’ Executive Order GA-34, Spring ISD is not requiring masks for either students or staff. However, we are encouraging face coverings over the nose and mouth throughout the district, including on school buses, when it’s not possible to socially distance, especially for those who are not vaccinated.

We will continue a regular schedule of cleaning and disinfecting in buildings and buses, as well as encourage the use of hand sanitizer and frequent hand washing. In addition, we will continue our partnership with Harris County Public Health and other organizations to offer vaccination and testing opportunities as appropriate for our staff and students.

The district is constantly working with our local health officials to guide our decisions and procedures. If any changes are made to our protocols, based on new guidance from local, state or federal agencies, we will keep everyone updated.

-Spring Branch ISD Statement:

Masks will be optional in schools this fall in Spring Branch ISD. No mask mandate is planned. However, students and staff who choose to wear masks will be allowed to do that. It also should be noted that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order in May, prohibiting public schools from requiring that masks be worn.

The district held vaccine clinics at high schools and middle schools in the spring for students and continues to encourage parents to learn about opportunities for their children to receive the vaccine. The district also has provided frequent communication to teachers and other staff about opportunities to obtain the vaccine.

In Spring Branch ISD, 81 percent of students were attending classes in person in the final grading period of the 2020-21 school year, one of the highest in-person attendance rates in the state. Spring Branch had in-person classes for the entire school year, and all students will attend class in person in the 2021-22 school year.