KISD trustees unanimously adopt safe return to school plan

No mask mandate issued as legal battles continue statewide

By R. Hans Miller, News Editor
Posted 9/1/21

In a special meeting held Monday, Aug. 30, the Katy ISD Board of Trustees adopted the district’s 2021-22 Safe Return to School Plan. According to KISD Deputy Superintendent Leslie Haack, the …

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KISD trustees unanimously adopt safe return to school plan

No mask mandate issued as legal battles continue statewide

Posted

In a special meeting held Monday, Aug. 30, the Katy ISD Board of Trustees adopted the district’s 2021-22 Safe Return to School Plan. According to KISD Deputy Superintendent Leslie Haack, the plan is flexible and the status of COVID-19 cases across all the district’s campuses is monitored regularly by the district’s COVID Emergency Operations Management team.

“Every day, the EOM mitigation meeting occurs,” Haack said. It’s Monday through Friday. We start at 3:30 (p.m.) and we meet on Sundays to get ready for the next day. And so, there’s quite a team of us and we’ve been added together. It includes representatives of the assistant superintendents, representatives from the departments – Athletics, Fine Arts is represented (as well as Career and Technology Education).”

Haack broke the district’s plan to mitigate COVID-19 across its campuses. The plan involves five stages with Stage 5 being the lowest level of risk for students and Stage 1 indicating the highest risk which would necessitate the district shutting down in-person learning and going fully remote.

  • Stage 5: This stage includes self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms for staff and students with frequent hand washing, social distancing of three feet or more when possible and protective gear such as face masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and desk dividers made upon request. As of Aug. 30, six district campuses were at this precaution level.
  • Stage 4: This is the mitigation stage with one or more confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 at a campus. Under this protocol, students and staff identified as being in close contact with the infected person must either self-isolate for up to 10 days or obtain a lab test showing a negative COVID-19 test result. Additionally, individual classrooms may be shut down for sanitizing. Classrooms that are shut down or students who must self-isolate are eligible for intermittent school-to-home instruction outside of the Katy Virtual academy program.
  • Stage 3: When precautions in Stage 4 do not work, students, visitors and staff are highly recommended to wear face coverings when indoors and on buses. All large, indoor gatherings will be canceled during the instructional day, though they may be rescheduled once the campus returns to a lower-threat stage. During Stage 3, lunchroom visitors are not allowed and guests and volunteers may visit the campus by appointment only and will have their temperature taken as part of the check-in process.
  • Stage 2: Under this situation, the campus will be closed to mitigate the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Students will be provided with online learning via their usual classroom teachers. This stage will continue for five days and may be extended depending on circumstances at the time. Once in-person learning resumes, the campus will revert to Stage 3 protocols to continue mitigation of the spread of the disease.
  • Stage 1: Under this stage, the district would shut down in-person learning and instruction would be fully remote for a specified timeframe to contain the spread of COVID-19 on district campuses.

“That is the last thing we want to do is suspend in-person learning and student program participation because if the in-person learning is suspended, it does impact all our student programs,” Haack said.

During a public hearing on the proposed policies, district residents spoke out against and in favor of a mask mandate at the district level. Two even suggested changing the district’s dress codes to make masking part of the district’s general policies. Other Texas districts such as Paris ISD and Texas City have implemented mask requirements in their dress codes.

However, much of the discussion included now-familiar arguments for and against mask mandates and a briefing by KISD General Counsel Justin Graham indicated that a district-level mask mandate wasn’t technically legal at this time. Graham said a ping-pong match of wills between Governor Gregg Abbott, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and those municipalities that have issued mask mandates since early August, including Harris and Fort Bend counties. As of Monday evening, he said, the district is prohibited from issuing a mask mandate under existing court actions.

“So, if (Superintendent) Gregorski and the board president wanted to mandate masks; you cannot do that,” Graham said.

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