Educators grapple with California school’s COVID mask mandate

California to adopt one of the country’s toughest school mask mandates next fall, but leaves the app to local educators, who come up with a series of consequences for students who break the rule – such as issuing warnings or denying them access to campus. Some even suggested that they could ignore the order because they didn’t think it was necessary.

The state’s hands-off stance on enforcement comes after days of rapidly evolving policy announcements at state and federal levels.

The move was particularly swift on Monday, when state officials ordered that students who refuse to wear masks be banned from entering campus. Hours later, the enforcement rule was removed and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said enforcement would be left to local education officials.

School administrators now need to think about how to keep students and staff online, especially since vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks in many other situations.

The rise in Delta variant coronavirus infections adds to concerns – and the knowledge that students under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccines, and not all older students are vaccinated.

The Los Angeles Unified School District intends to impose a mask warrant – in the spring, administrators were quick to send home students who refused to take a coronavirus test. But in Glenn County, Northern California, Hamilton Unified Supt. Jeremy Powell has said he is opposed to the rule.

“As a leader in public education, I cannot continue to enforce policies that not only do not support, but rather think they border on child abuse,” Powell wrote. Monday on Twitter.

On Tuesday, Newsom suggested he was personally involved in the swift removal of language banning unmasked students from campus.

“All I have done is clarify local responsibility, which is consistent with all previous rules in effect since last year,” the governor said during an appearance in Los Angeles. The lack of details on the application matches what the state was doing “last year and the last quarter,” he added. “As far as law enforcement is concerned, this has always been the local responsibility.

The underlying goal of the California rule, he stressed, is to bring all students back to campus for full-time in-person instruction: “We’ve made that clear. “

Despite the abrupt change, the mandate places California among the states with the strictest mask policies.

According to a tracker from the online platform Burbio: nine states, including California, will begin the school year with mask requirements for all in schools; eight states, including Texas, specifically ban mask warrants in schools; three states, including Michigan, require masks among the unvaccinated; the others offer varying degrees of local flexibility.

When the state’s rules were released on Monday, some school officials praised the original language that unmasked students should be banned from entering campus. Others were irritated by the stenosis.

On Tuesday, education officials faced a more nuanced situation, where they would have to explain their local policy on applying masking to voters.

The Capistrano Unified School District in San Juan Capistrano requires masks inside but not outside, which is in accordance with state and federal authorities.

Students who refuse to wear a mask are given a warning, communications manager Ryan Burris said. After the fourth offense, an elementary school student will be reassigned to distance education. High school students are reassigned after the third offense.

The district provides additional clothing and disposable masks to schools. This aligns with state and federal guidelines, which require schools to give masks to students when necessary, even on their school bus.

A different approach is being considered about 35 miles north of Sacramento, in the Wheatland Union High School District, where officials in June write a letter to state health officials expressing concern over the mask’s mandate.

With increasing vaccination rates and children seemingly less susceptible to the virus, Superintendent. Nicole Newman wrote that the pursuit of a mask tenure would only serve as a “constant reminder to students of the fear and uncertainty they experienced during the peak of the pandemic.”

Vaccines and safety protocols have changed the equation, she said, especially in light of recommendations from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Friday, the CDC strongly recommended masking for students who aren’t vaccinated, but not necessarily for those who have been vaccinated – and gave local authorities plenty of leeway to make the decision. The CDC called for multi-layered security measures stressing the importance of fully opening schools in the fall.

While California policy follows CDC guidelines, other states may determine that masks are not necessary for those who are vaccinated.

“Why California has to be any different is beyond me,” Newman said, adding that she was concerned that students would choose to stay home to study independently rather than go to school with a mask on. which could further affect their emotional well-being.

In addition, the masks have prevented young students, like freshmen, from making friends at school.

“It hurts them,” she said. “They have to be able to connect with the kids.”

At this point, her likely recommendation to the school board would be to require face masks as a policy, but not to enforce it, in the same way that dress codes are handled in some places, she said. .

Parents are divided.

“I’m incredibly grateful,” said Los Angeles parent Kristina Wallace. “Since my children are too young to be vaccinated and are also at increased risk if they contract COVID, I am encouraged to see those responsible consider the greater good. I feel relatively confident sending my kids back to school after the incredible care and attention that LA Unified showed over the past year. However, removing the masking would put my children at risk and I wouldn’t be willing to send them back without the warrant, especially in light of the new variants and their unvaccinated status.

But masking for all makes no sense for LA mom Melissa Lustgarten, who has boys, fully vaccinated, in middle school and high school.

“The vaccine is available to everyone, and it’s free,” Lustgarten said. “If some families don’t want it, it’s completely their choice. But my children shouldn’t suffer because of the decisions of others. When will it be enough to get rid of masks in schools?

Ultimately, the masking requirement is not a major surprise, especially because a likely alternative, physical distancing, could make it difficult for all students to return to campus, said Edgar Zazueta, Senior Director of Policy and Government Relations for Assn. California school administrators.

As for law enforcement, he said, “I think it’s fair to say that this will obviously put some educators in difficult situations.”

Source link