Lifting of mask mandate emphasizes arguments over masks in schools


California lifted its mask mandate on vaccinated people on Feb. 16 and gave school districts the power to end them in mid-March, representing a step toward normalcy after nearly two years of required mask wearing. 

Among several other specific settings, including healthcare facilities and public transit, masks are still required or optional (in K-12 schools). However, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced in a press release on Feb. 14 that this mandate will likely also be lifted sometime next month, depending on Covid case numbers, student vaccination rates, hospitalization rates and national and global Covid trends. 

“I think that schools should keep the mask mandate in place,” says Rio Americano High School senior Kate Hasseltine. “Minimizing the spread of COVID-19 is essential to the health and well-being of our community and those around us, and to do that, masks need to be worn in large public settings, such as schools. People are still dying every day, so we should all do our part in stopping the spread of Covid, meaning continuing to wear masks and get vaccinated.” 

Some California school districts are ignoring the law. Following the lead of small, rural districts, the Roseville Joint Union High School District is neglecting to discipline maskless students, even going so far as to make mask-wearing optional. 

On Feb. 10, the RJUHSD school board passed a resolution implementing, “regardless of vaccination status, personal and parent choice with respect to whether or not children should wear face coverings while at school.” 

In the San Juan Unified School District, masks are still required regardless of vaccination status when indoors, at a large school-related event, or on a school bus. 

The resolution also stated that it would not require Covid testing for asymptomatic students as a replacement for mask wearing. 

Starting Monday, March 14, masks were no longer be required in California but individual districts could choose to require them. Sacramento City Unified and Davis Unified both decided to keep their mandates in place for a longer period of time.

Rio Vice Principal Robert Kerr says; “they just need to work out with the teachers and everybody involved on how that is going to work; I think that’s what that buffer is for, and in the meantime I’d appreciate everybody just sticking with the masks. We’re almost there.”