As of Mar. 12 masks no longer mandated for students

Sierra Sands Unified School District Superintendent Dr. David Ostash –

On Monday, February 28, we heard an announcement from the state updating us on what we can expect for the transition from mandated indoor masking to voluntary masking in schools for all students. Starting March 12, indoor masking in schools for all students will be strongly recommended, but not mandated. We will work together as a staff to modify the required safety plan, communicate regularly, and implement the change fully and in a timely manner.

On the previous Monday, Feb. 21, California’s Department of Public Health announced that it would not make immediate changes to California’s longstanding school mask mandate. However, they expected to reevaluate their decision on Feb. 28.

The announcement followed a 72% decline in California’s test positivity rate from the peak of the omicron surge last month and comes a week after the state announced it would not extend its indoor mask mandate for vaccinated residents after it expired on Feb. 15.

While test positivity has declined, overall cases across the state are still high, and officials are still strongly recommending that Californians wear masks indoors. Experts were divided over whether now is the best time to unmask children.

Some saying that masking has taken a toll on schoolchildren’s mental health and impacted their academic progress, arguing that the costs of masking kids in schools outweigh the public health benefits. Others said that the masks should stay on for a few more weeks until California’s COVID-19 numbers are lower.

Parents and school officials are similarly split. Some schools have said they will begin a “mask optional” policy this week, ignoring the state’s rules.

We will all be living, working, and learning together in the future, long past the complex problems we are trying to solve today. In preparing our students, and ourselves, for solving the unknown different problems in the future it is so important that we don’t let disagreements associated with our current challenges define us in the future. Speaking of the future…

I understand that masks have caused a significant amount of frustration among some parents and others and, regrettably, has become a divisive issue that has proven challenging to the longstanding strong relationships between staff, students, and the community. We all might reflect on the extent to which grace and patience can be a long term strategy for overall success.

Story First Published: 2022-03-04