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HISD superintendent stands by decision to implement mask mandate

Superintendent Millard House II said he's not worried about possible ramifications of defying Gov. Greg Abbott's order.

HOUSTON — Houston Independent School District Superintendent Millard House II said he has the utmost respect for Gov. Greg Abbott but the health and safety of the community and schools are why the district's board will likely approve a mask mandate later this week.

RELATED: 'We must remain vigilant' | Houston ISD to vote on mask mandate for students, staff and visitors

"We think it’s the right thing to do,” House said during a one-on-one interview with KHOU 11 News.

You can watch the full interview with Superintendent House here

House said local health data and Harris County’s elevated threat level convinced him that face coverings could no longer be optional.

RELATED: Harris County raises COVID threat level to 'red,' healthcare system near 'breaking point'

"We haven’t hit the pinnacle as far as where the variant is taking us right now," House said. "So it was important for us to do something.”

Dallas ISD, the state’s second largest district behind HISD, announced it would require face coverings for all students and staff. Austin ISD has decided to the same.  A number of other districts will also implement mask mandates despite Abbott’s order banning them.

RELATED: 'We're in an urgent crisis' | Dallas ISD to 'temporarily' require masks at schools and facilities, officials announce

When House was asked if he's afraid of retaliation or ramifications from the implementation of the mandate, he didn't seem concerned.

"You know, we’re in the midst of a pandemic," House said. "I don’t see retaliation as a method that anyone looks to use, quite frankly.”

House said HISD, like some other districts, is also considering limited remote instruction for select students outside of its pre-COVID virtual offerings.

But he added that having kids in class is the priority.

"Virtual education has been good for a small group of kids," House said. "But, for the most part, a lot of our children have struggled with it.”

House said he and wife and their eligible child have all been vaccinated and encouraged others to follow suit in order to help salvage some sense of normalcy this school year.

"I’m excited about the future even though, you know, COVID has put some stumbling blocks in front of us," House said. "We’re looking forward to getting this done.”

We reached out to both Abbott’s office and the Texas Education Agency seeking comment about districts going against executive orders.

The TEA referred us to Abbott's office which has not responded.