KISD adjusts fall semester COVID-19 strategy, but opts against mask mandate

By R. Hans Miller, News Editor
Posted 8/10/21

The Katy ISD Board of Trustees has made adjustments to its plans for all students to return to campuses on Aug. 18. Trustees voted unanimously to approve an adjustment to continue Katy Virtual …

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KISD adjusts fall semester COVID-19 strategy, but opts against mask mandate

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The Katy ISD Board of Trustees has made adjustments to its plans for all students to return to campuses on Aug. 18. Trustees voted unanimously to approve an adjustment to continue Katy Virtual Academy for students in Kindergarten through sixth grade and officials said options for mandating certain actions weren’t available to the district due to Texas Education Agency guidance.

“They did give us some flexibility with some of the decisions we would be able to make (but the) guidance this year is pared down considerably,” Superintendent Ken Gregorski said. “… For a good example of that would be when we do the contact tracing and then we were to send students home who could have been exposed to Covid and ask them to get a test before they return and have them quarantine for a few days – we don’t have that flexibility as we did (last school year).”

The KVA program will be offered from Aug. 30 and will continue through the first grading period for the fall semester which ends Oct. 15, staff said. A plan is being implemented and applications for students to attend KVA are expected to be available on Wednesday, Aug. 11. Parents who enroll their students in the KVA program should expect to have their child in that program for the duration of the first grading term, district staff said.

The board’s adjustment to their return to school plan also includes an additional 10 days of paid leave for district employees who have been documented with a positive COVID-19 test and require mandatory quarantine. Staff with minor children living at home who test positive for COVID-19 will receive that same benefit. Employees and students will also have access to free COVID-19 testing. Students testing positive for COVID-19 and needing to isolate for that or any other medical condition will be allowed to utilize the intermittent school to home learning model piloted last year, though they will have a cap of 20 cumulative days in that program.

The unanimous vote to accept the district administration’s recommendations came after a lengthy public forum in which more than 30 people spoke.  Of those, roughly one-third spoke out against a mask mandate which was not a part of the district’s proposed plan. Most cited concerns regarding personal freedoms and made unverifiable or verifiably false claims about the nature of the pandemic, the effectiveness of masks against the spread of viruses and COVID-19 in general.

About two-thirds of the speakers, including several Katy area physicians, spoke in favor of the district going against Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s standing executive order against students being mandated to wear masks. Those in favor of masks indicated that the science and situation required caution and measures such as masks, social distancing and additional options for virtual schooling.

“Throughout my time in school, my peers could not wear spaghetti straps or jeans that have rips above the knee because of district dress code regulations. But, this school year, the COVID-19 vaccine and face masks are not to be required, despite the fact that more than 600,000 Americans have died form this pandemic, and 36 million have become sick from it,” said Seven Lakes High School Student Cameron Samuels.  

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