Once again the state came out with a policy when it came to returning to pre-COVID-19 pandemic practices. And once again the policy caused confusion.
The California Department of Public Health released guidance on Monday that required masks be worn indoors at all K-12 schools.
The statement in the state guidance that caused the most controversy was this: schools “must exclude students from campus if they are not exempt from wearing a face covering under (the rules) and refuse to wear one provided by the school.”
The state quickly backtracked on that statement Tuesday and the language stating students who refuse to wear a mask would be removed from campus has been removed.
"There has been some confusion about the guidance so we wanted to offer some clarification and make sure you have the latest guidance,” CDPH stated on Tuesday. “California is focused on reopening schools safely for in person learning and is doing so in line with guidance from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).”
The CDPH hasn't actually deviated that far from the CDC guidelines. CDC guidelines state fully vaccinated individuals don't need to wear a mask while at school.
But the CDC also recommended that social distancing of three feet be maintained and when social distancing can't be maintained, it's recommending masks be required.
“When schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other preventative strategies, such as indoor masking,” the CDC stated.
And the CDC stated it will be up to states and local school districts on what guidelines they want to use. So the state decided with many school districts not able to provide social distancing when fully re-opening to just not require social distancing at all. But with no social distancing requirement, the state also followed the CDC's guidelines to require masks.
While there's still a mask requirement it will now be up to local school districts on how they will enforce the mandate.
CDPH guidelines state: “California will continue to require that masks be worn indoors in school settings, which also will ensure that all kids are treated the same. Mask enforcement will continue to be handled by local schools as the state recognizes the unique needs of each district and child.
“As many of California's school facilities can't fully accommodate physical distancing, California will align with the CDC’s guidance on school reopening by layering multiple other prevention strategies, including mask requirements.”
Governor Gavin Newsom has effectively issued a directive that all K-12 schools be fully re-opened to in-person learning to begin the new school year.
Burton School District superintendent Sergio Mendoza issued a statement on Tuesday, officially announcing the district will return to full-time, in-person instruction when the school year begins on August 10. “We are excited to announce that the Burton School District will return to full-time, in-person instruction at the start of the 2021-2022 school year, August 10th,” Mendoza stated.
Mendoza stated the district also will abide by CDPH's guideline requiring masks be worn indoors while at school.
“The current mask requirement from CDPH requires universal masking while indoors in all K-12 schools,” he said.
He also stated the mask policy applies to those who are fully vaccinated as well as those who are not. “This is emphasized to not differentiate between students who are vaccinated or not,” he said.
He also stated the wearing of masks outdoors will be optional. Mendoza also said, “physical distancing will not be enforced in the classrooms, since physical distancing is not possible in many facilities.
“We want you to know that we will continue to put the safety of our students and staff as a priority. Schools are the best and safest place for students to learn, succeed and thrive and we are ready to return.”
Mendoza said the district will continue to provide updates based on updated guidance from state and local health officials. “Thank you for your continued patience and support during this time,” Mendoza said.
The school year for the Porterville Unified School District will begin on August 12. PUSD posted on its Facebook page it will be making an announcement soon on what the schedule will be and what guidelines will be followed.
CDC guidelines also state students who are exposed to the virus won't have to miss any school time if they don't have symptoms. There are also those who are exempt from having to wear masks for medical reasons.