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Superintendent: HISD will require masks for students, staff on the first day of school

Superintendent Millard House now says a board vote isn't required but they are expected to approve the mandate on Thursday.

HOUSTON — Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House says he expects the district's board of trustees to show support for his mask mandate at their Thursday meeting, but he adds that their approval is not required.

He says a vote isn't needed to implement the plan, based on new guidance he received in the last 24 hours, but the board will vote anyway since it's on the agenda.

Note: the video in this story is from an earlier interview with the superintendent about this subject.

RELATED: These Texas school districts will have mask mandates in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott

House told KHOU 11's Jason Miles the mask requirement for students and staff will be in effect on the first day of school, which is Aug 23. The mandate might take effect earlier at some locations but that's still being worked out.

The district's official safety plan will be updated this Friday, House says.

"Right thing to do"

In an interview with KHOU 11 earlier this week, the superintendent said he has the utmost respect for Gov. Greg Abbott, but the health and safety of the community and schools are why there will be a mask mandate in Houston's public schools.

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

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

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

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.”

Also watch: Spring ISD also announces a mask requirement for the start of 2021-2022 school year

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