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Houston-area school districts removing mask mandates as soon as summer session in some cases

Clear Creek ISD's changes come after a safety committee reconvened to formulate recommendations.

HOUSTON — "Masks required" signs will stay up through the end of this school year in most districts, including Clear Creek ISD.

But changes are on the way across Texas.

"I don’t think any one of us can imagine coming into a second school year with these strict protocols in place,” said CCISD chief communications officer Elaina Polsen.

Polsen said a reconvened safety committee recommended to the board of trustees this week that face coverings only be required if you can’t properly social distance beginning June 1.

It's a plan the board approved.

"And then, in the fall of 21-22, it is our aspiration to have it be a mask optional environment,” Polsen said.

67 percent of people who responded to a recent survey agreed with making masks optional. 79 percent of the more than 2,000 employees who responded to another poll indicated they’d received a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Our day-to-day active cases for COVID-19 are what I would consider to be manageable,” Polsen said.

Tomball ISD announced similar protocol changes this week.

But it will make masks optional beginning on the last day of this semester.

And Spring Branch ISD posted a message which included a comment by superintendent Jennifer Blaine.

“I expect at this point that we will not have a mask mandate when school starts in August,” said Blaine.

Houston ISD and others told KHOU 11 News that they have yet to make decisions regarding masks next year.

But Polsen said students were among those making their case in Clear Creek ISD.

"They want to see each other’s smile," Polsen said. "And that is really powerful.”

Districts said they will continue to pay attention to current COVID-19 rates and medical advice.

Here's more information on CCISD's changes:

"The Clear Creek Independent School District Board of Trustees approved a CCISD committee’s recommendation to maintain COVID-19 protocols for the remainder of this school year, conduct summer activities as scheduled with certain revisions to face covering requirements, and develop procedures for the 2021-2022 school year for a mask-optional environment for all CCISD facilities.

"The school district reconvened the Safely Reopen CCISD Committee shortly after Governor Greg Abbott lifted the face covering mandate in Texas. This committee is the same group which developed the highly successful recommendations that have kept Clear Creek ISD open with minimal disruptions this year. In this regroup session, the school board asked the committee to address the Governor’s executive order, consider revisions to current quarantine practices and provide general aspirations related to the summer.

"The committee’s recommendations were then shared with the public for input. More than 10,000 parents, staff, students, and community members submitted their preferences which ultimately supported the committee’s recommendations. The recommendations and public feedback can be viewed here.

“The committee’s recommendations provide us direction to finish out the school year with current practices and begin the transition process from required face coverings to optional face coverings,” said Eric Williams, Superintendent of Schools. “We are deeply appreciative of the committee’s time and effort to come to consensus on a set of recommendations that reflect the changing dynamics of this pandemic.”

"In the board-approved recommendations, the school district will only require face coverings to be worn when six feet of distance cannot be maintained for both indoor and outdoor activities. This will take effect June 1, 2021. Currently, face coverings are to be always worn unless eating or drinking.

"Recently, Clear Creek ISD conducted a poll among staff to gather information on vaccine rates among employees. Of the 2,039 employees who responded, 79% indicated they had received a COVID-19 vaccine and 92% felt Clear Creek ISD has provided sufficient information about vaccination availability.

"When polled, 76% of respondents agreed that face coverings should remain a requirement for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year and 67% of respondents agreed that the school district should develop protocols for the 2021-2022 school year to allow for optional face coverings.

"The recommendation for the 2021-2022 school year was framed as an aspiration since it fell outside the charges and guidelines approved by the school board. The superintendent will work with the school board to identify next steps as the Texas Education Agency requires school boards to officially take action to modify face covering requirements considering Executive Order (GA-34.)"

Tomball ISD's release:

"Effective at the end of the last day of school, May 27, 2021, masks will be optional in Tomball ISD for all staff and students. This option extends into summer school, summer athletic camps, and all school-related activities. Thank you for your grace, patience and love during an extremely challenging time for all. We appreciate your continued support and look forward to a mask optional 2021-22 school year."

Spring Branch ISD's release:

"As it prepares for a more normal 2021-22 school year, Spring Branch ISD expects there will be no mask mandate in district schools next fall, Superintendent Jennifer Blaine said Thursday.

The district will continue to work closely with its medical advisers to monitor the COVID-19 situation in the community, but Dr. Blaine said officials are encouraged by the growing numbers of vaccinations in the area and projections for continued progress nationwide in the fight against the virus.

“I expect at this point that we will not have a mask mandate when school starts in August,” Dr. Blaine said.

"The school district has been reviewing its COVID-19 protocols throughout the current school year and has been working on protocol planning for next school year over the past few months.

"The mask mandate remains in effect at Spring Branch ISD schools for the current school year.

"Working with its medical partners and following federal, state and local guidelines, Spring Branch ISD has successfully enacted safety protocols throughout the current school year to minimize the potential for spread of COVID-19. SBISD now has 81 percent of its more than 33,000 students back in class, in person, and schools have been open and operating safely throughout the school year.

"The Spring Branch ISD 2021-22 school year for students starts on August 16."