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Spring ISD implements mask mandate 'to ensure the safety of our students and our staff'

The announcement came the evening before the first day of school, but the mask requirement will not immediately go into effect.

SPRING, Texas — Spring Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson announced late Tuesday that his district will implement a mandatory mask mandate this school year.

The mandate goes into effect on Monday, Aug. 16 and will apply to all students, staff and visitors regardless of vaccination status. The first day of school in Spring ISD is Wednesday, Aug. 11.

It's not about defying the governor, superintendent says

“One of our core values in Spring ISD is we will do whatever we can do to ensure the safety of our students and our staff,” Dr. Watson said at a Wednesday morning press conference. “I don’t want to focus so much on defying the governor. We are ensuring that our kids are safe. We’re ensuring that our teachers are safe. And we’re ensuring the learning needs for each student is met.”

Watch: Spring ISD's superintendent discusses new mask requirement

Houston ISD is expected to vote on a similar mask requirement this week, and both Austin and Dallas ISDs have approved mask requirements as well, despite a ban on such mandates by Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order.

Dr. Watson said while safety is a priority, Spring ISD is also focused on education and does not want COVID-19 to serve as a distraction.

“We are charged with educating kids, and we know, based on what happened all across the country last year, with where kids are and how they ended up academically, that we must ensure that we have nothing that breaks that opportunity to grow.”

Contact tracing

Spring ISD will also provide contact tracing itself instead of referring the cases to Harris County Public Health. The district will alert families and staff of any positive cases on campuses and within the district by sending out messages to those affected.

"We made these changes to ensure everyone feels like they are getting the information they need about COVID-19 in our school community," Watson said in a statement.

The district will also send out a survey to see how parents feel about a potential remote learning option for students.

Dr. Watson's full statement:

"As promised, I’m updating you on some changes we’ve made to our COVID-19 health and safety protocols. This evening, I announced at our board meeting that we will be requiring the wearing of masks for all students, staff, and visitors to our district buildings and campuses – regardless of vaccination status. This safety protocol will go into effect on Monday, Aug. 16.

"Additionally, we will be providing contact tracing within Spring ISD, rather than referring those positive cases to Harris County Public Health for contact tracing. We also will let our families and staff know about any positive cases on our campuses or in our district facilities by sending out a general communication to those at the campus or at the affected work location.

"We made these changes to ensure everyone feels like they are getting the information they need about COVID-19 in our school community. For families and staff who were with us for the 2020-21 school year, you’ll remember how this process worked. If there was a positive case on the campus, our Emergency Management & School Safety team would handle the contact tracing, and our principals/administrators would work with our Communications Department to send out a general notification. This process worked very well last year, so we want to continue with it as long as necessary.

"In addition, tomorrow (Aug. 11) we will be sending out a survey to all parents/guardians asking about your potential interest in a remote learning option. As you may know, we had been planning to move forward with our Spring Virtual Academy until we learned in June that funding had not been authorized.

"We understand from all of your feedback that many families would still like this as an option. Based on the responses to the survey, we’re going to look at all possibilities in providing this virtual alternative to students. We will keep you updated as we move forward, including how to apply."

KHOU 11 interviewed Watson last week about the health and safety protocols before the mask mandate was in place. That interview is below:

Mia Gradney KHOU spoke with Spring ISD superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson about the district's plans this school year which starts next week. More: https://www.khou.com/article/news/education/khou-11-superintendent-chats-2021-school-year/285-a4ec7e26-8a4e-4a1f-abc6-da0795d024a4

Posted by KHOU 11 News on Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Here are some stories about what's happening in other Texas school districts:

RELATED: Katy ISD Board of Trustees approves virtual learning for grades K-6

RELATED: Masks will be optional in Katy ISD this school year, district officials say

RELATED: Fort Bend ISD releases details of virtual learning program for the fall semester

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

RELATED: These Houston-area school districts will offer virtual learning as COVID cases surge

RELATED: Austin ISD superintendent says decision to issue mask mandate was not taken lightly

RELATED: Cy-Fair ISD will offer virtual learning options for young students, joining Fort Bend ISD, Conroe ISD

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

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