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'I think everybody's excited to be back' | Houston, Cy-Fair ISDs go back to school on Monday with COVID mitigation in mind

HISD will have a mask mandate while masks remain optional, yet strongly encouraged, in Cy-Fair ISD.

HOUSTON — Cesar Chavez High School will be back in session come Monday like all of Houston ISD's 276 campuses.

“I think everybody’s excited to be back," said longtime English teacher Coretta Mallet-Fontenot. "I think some people are still quite nervous and cautious, you know, rightfully so.”

Mallet-Fontenot spent Friday putting finishing touches on her classroom and finalizing lesson plans.

She and others also went over COVID-related protocols meant to keep campus cases from skyrocketing.

“I’m really hoping that our layered mitigation procedures, you know, prevents that,” Mallet-Fontenot said.

RELATED: What happens if employees or students don't comply with HISD's mask mandate?

HISD announced Thursday evening it would add a limited virtual learning option for students too young to be vaccinated who also have immunity issues and that temporary virtual learning would also be used for those who are sick or need to quarantine.

Students who fail to comply with the district’s mandatory mask requirement will also shift to online learning.

“If there's noncompliance, at that particular juncture, what we would do is move the child into the temporary online learning platform that can be utilized for 20 days,” said HISD superintendent Millard House during a recent Q&A with KHOU 11.

Cy-Fair ISD, which also starts back on Monday, rolled out a limited virtual option as well despite a lack of state funding. Its mask policy remains optional. But the district strongly encourages mitigation measures like masks and was among the first to offer on-campus vaccinations.

That's something Cy-Fair mom Samantha Calkins’s oldest son decided to get.

"Get your kids vaccinated so that when we're in classrooms full of students that are un-masked that they are protected," Calkins said.

In a reversal, the Texas Education Agency announced that districts must now notify teachers, staff and families of positive COVID cases, which both HISD and Cy-Fair plan to do as another challenging year begins.

"Challenges in education abound day to day, minute to minute," Mallet-Fontenot said. "It’s up to us as educators to do the best that we can to meet that challenge."

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