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Local schools and parents react to state guidance that requires masks upon return to school

On Friday the state of California delivered a new plan requiring masks once again upon schools' return. The guidance is stricter than what has come down from the federal government. Under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated." However, in an effort to ensure "all kids are treated the same" California's Department of Public Health announced that all kids and teachers will wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

"I think as a district what we're going to do going forward is require the use of masks for all our students whether they are vaccinated or not. The large majority of our population-- our elementary students, especially are not even eligible to be vaccinated yet and so given that, I think just to create a safe space at school while the students are here, masking is going to continue to be important," Laura Dyson, Palm Springs Unified School District Supervising Nurse.

Desert Sands Unified School District responded to News Channel 3's request for comment saying, "DSUSD follows the guidelines provided by the state."

The Coachella Valley Unified School District could not provide a response at the time.

Each major district will resume instruction next month.

The CDC guidelines stated that further mitigation should be taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus if physical distancing of three feet couldn't be met. As a result, CDPH said many schools in California could not meet that accommodation, which partly led to the requiring of masks all around.

"They’re singling kids out by doing that. That’s what you’re doing, you’re making them feel less of," Coachella Valley parent, Marlena Zapp said.

Zapp believes that if federal guidance was followed, children would be more vulnerable to bullying because it it would be clear who is and isn't vaccinated.

Under the new guidance, masks will be optional outdoors. Schools must also have face masks on hand for students who fail to bring one.

"I think it’s just kind of a 'wishy-washy' thing, I mean us as adults don’t have to wear masks and then we’re telling our children that they have to wear it at school and they’ve already worn it for a year and a half, almost 2 years now," Zapp said. "Let them have a little bit of freedom with it. We’ve already taught them to sanitize extra."

Coachella Valley parents are standing by. Many have mixed reaction on what is to come.

“I prefer (my daughter) to wear a mask because I’m not getting her vaccinated and so I prefer her to wear a mask at school just to keep her safe," parent of a local sophomore, Erica Verdugo said.

Below is partially what the state has published to its website for the new guidance.

Safety Measures for K-12 Schools

  1. Masks a. Masks are optional outdoors for all in K-12 school settings.b. K-12 students are required to mask indoors, with exemptions per CDPH face mask guidance.   Adults in K-12 school settings are required to mask when sharing indoor spaces with students.  c. Persons exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition, must wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it.d. Schools must develop protocols to provide a face covering to students who inadvertently fail to bring a face covering to school to prevent unnecessary exclusions.e. Schools should offer alternative educational opportunities for students who are excluded from campus because they will not wear a face covering.f. In order to comply with this guidance, schools must exclude students from campus if they are not exempt from wearing a face covering under CDPH guidelines and refuse to wear one provided by the school.g. In limited situations where a face covering cannot be used for pedagogical or developmental reasons, (e.g., communicating or assisting young children or those with special needs) a face shield with a drape (per CDPH guidelines) can be used instead of a face covering while in the classroom as long as the wearer maintains physical distance from others. Staff must return to wearing a face covering outside of the classroom. 
  2. Physical distancing a. Recent evidence indicates that in-person instruction can occur safely without minimum physical distancing requirements when other mitigation strategies (e.g., masking) are implemented.  This is consistent with CDC K-12 School Guidance.

You can find the full guidance here:

https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/K-12-Guidance-2021-22-School-Year.aspx

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Shelby Nelson

Shelby Nelson is a News Reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. She joined our team in September 2019. Learn more about Shelby here.

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