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Houston-area school districts say they'll stick with state guidelines and TEA after Harris County goes 'red'

Late Thursday, however, Houston ISD's super said the school board would vote on a mask rule for the coming school year.

HOUSTON — Many expect a bumpy ride when busses roll into the new school year as far as COVID is concerned.

"I’m expecting changes to happen from week to week,” Humble ISD mom and former teacher Ashley Gomez said.

Harris County’s decision to raise its COVID threat level to "red" had Gomez even more concerned.

"The threat level is just what we already felt I think," Gomez said. "We were already feeling this and hearing things, you know, from family members and friends.”

But while health advice from local officials is part of protocol planning for most districts, their hands are pretty much tied by state guidelines.

RELATED: TEA updates guidance to allow for limited remote instruction, masks remain optional

“The county’s decision on the threat level doesn’t really impact our operations," Spring Branch ISD said in a statement. "We follow Texas Education Agency guidelines and the advice and counsel of our medical advisors on related issues.”

But Houston ISD is set to bring back a mask mandate and stronger safety measures pending a vote next week by the school board.

HISD Superintendent Millard House said earlier this week he had no intention of bucking state orders that ban face-covering mandates. But the possibility of re-implementing a mask mandate was brought up at Thursday night’s school board meeting.

RELATED: HISD super says board will vote on a mask requirement for 2021-2022

"But we do know that masks are important," House said last week. "As a parent, I am sending my children to school masked up, ready to learn.”

KHOU 11 is hosting a live Q&A with Superintendent House at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 16. For more information, click here.

In the meantime, like other districts, HISD strongly encourages mask usage among students and staff.

There is less specific information about what happens if COVID cases crop up on campuses.

"It may be because we’ve had spread in a particular classroom, but there hasn’t been exposure outside of that classroom, that we shut that classroom down and maybe that we shut a grade level down,” House said.

Gomez said she believes COVID cases are inevitable with 100% in-person learning and hoped districts follow the best advice when it comes to keeping everyone safe.

"Because we want to know, even though these items are coming from the top down, we want to know that you resonate with us," said Gomez.  We want to know that you have our backs.”

Private schools are able to follow county guidance.

Some of them already decided to mandate masks based on CDC recommendations.

Read more from public school districts that responded to our requests for comment on the threat level increase:

-Alief ISD:

The health and safety of our students and staff is our first priority. In light of the rising COVID-19 cases in the Houston area and across the country, Alief ISD will continue to encourage staff and parents of students 12 years and older to get the free vaccine. Unfortunately since Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order (GA-36) renders school districts powerless in mandating universal mask wearing while in schools, we can only encourage everyone to do their part in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks. The district’s additional cleaning and safety protocols & procedures will continue. All learning will be in-person due to the state legislature’s failure to pass a virtual learning bill. The district will continue to host vaccination clinics to increase access to the vaccine for those who are eligible.

-Katy ISD:

The Katy ISD Safe Return to School Plan for the 2021-22 school year aligns with Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38, which took effect July 29, 2021, as well as any guidance provided by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The District is prioritizing the health and safety of our students and staff by allowing facial coverings to be optional, continuing frequent cleanings and providing sanitizing products for students and staff on all Katy ISD campuses, as well as encouraging social distancing practices wherever appropriate. The District will continue reviewing any further updates or guidance that may be provided by the TEA and local health officials.

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