California students and school staff had mixed emotions about the end of the state’s school mask mandate on Monday. In the Bay Area, many students and school staff chose to continue wearing masks, while face masks were scarce in schools in the Central Valley and the mountains of Northern California.
At Concord High School in Contra Costa County, about 70 percent of students wore masks on Monday, at least a few times, principal Rianne Pfaltzgraff said. Most staff also chose to keep the mask on, but some were still glad it was no longer needed.
In at least one class, teachers performed a “mask revelation” in which students took off their masks and looked each other in the face for the first time. Junior Kaila Murillo was stunned by how his friends looked different from what he expected. The eyes and ears only offer a vision of a person; a lot is expressed in the nose and in the mouth and in the smile, he said.
Although they kept everyone safe, the masks were a big inconvenience, Murillo said. They were misty on your glasses, they were suffocating if you had allergies, they were skin-tight, and they were very uncomfortable during those hot Concord afternoons, he said.
“I threw away all my masks this morning,” he said. “It felt really good. It looked like summer was almost here. It looks like you can finally breathe.”
Karen Jauregui, a young woman, said she was delighted to breathe freely and see the faces of her friends, some for the first time. But she wore the mask during the first period out of respect for her teacher, who has an underlying health condition.
“At first I was a little scared not to wear a mask, but almost everyone I know has had COVID and improved, and I’m totally screwed,” she said. “So it looks like a low risk.”
California Masks Mandate came into force in the summer of 2021, as most school campuses are preparing to reopen after being closed for more than a year because of concerns about COVID-19.
The end of the state mask mandate on Monday was a turning point for school districts, many of which were besieged by masked protesters at school board meetings and campuses. School districts and county health offices now have the authority to decide whether to continue demanding masks on campus. Many districts eagerly withdrew the mandate.
At Nevada Joint Union High School, everyone’s footsteps were lighter on Monday, Superintendent Brett McFadden said. The district challenged the state mandate and made the masks optional for students on Feb. 22, after protests began erupting against the masks on campus. But with the state eliminating the mask mandate for all students and teachers, Monday was the first day staff could come to class without covering their faces. About 75 percent of students and staff did not wear masks, he said.
“Now that we’re in an optional mode, we don’t have to enforce it, which takes time and effort,” he said. “We can now focus more on interacting with children and getting back to what we are good at: providing educational leadership to children.”
California’s two largest school systems have yet to lift their mask mandates. The San Diego Unified District will end the requirement on April 4, following the district’s spring break, while the Los Angeles Unified is still negotiating with its teachers’ union to lift the term. LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he was in favor of following the state’s decision to strongly recommend the use of masks in schools but not to force them.
The San Francisco Unified School District Board of Directors voted last week maintain your inner masking mandate until at least April 18, though it removed the requirement for students to wear a mask outdoors. District officials will consider COVID-19 case rates and other public health data before deciding whether to recommend masks instead of requiring them.
Some districts are waiting until after the spring break to lift the mandates for indoor masks. Oakland Unified, Sacramento City Unified e Davis Joint Unified they plan to lift their mandates in mid-April. District leaders have expressed concern that there may be an increase after the spring break similar to the increase in cases after the winter break.
West Contra Costa Unified officials announced on Saturday, after consultation with their unions, that masking would be “highly recommended but will no longer be necessary” in secondary schools, high schools and district offices. The district will continue to require masks in elementary schools until April 15, when students return from spring break.
District officials wanted to “move cautiously,” without knowing the vaccination rates of elementary students, district spokesman Ryan Phillips said. The district knows that 87% of students 12 and older are vaccinated.
San Francisco Unified has adopted a similar plan, allowing masks to be optional in high schools and high schools, but requiring them for elementary schools until April 2, after the spring break.
Oakland’s father, Sarah Jackel, said she had a hard time explaining to her children why one had to wear a mask to school on Monday and the other did not. Her 5-year-old son attends a private preschool, which has lifted her inner mask mandate, and her 7-year-old daughter attends a school at Oakland Unified, which maintains its mask mandate until April 15 over concerns of an increase after spring. to break.
Jackel said he favored the mask’s mandate earlier this year, but believes it’s time to lift it. She is disappointed that the district has chosen to support the union’s call to maintain the mandate.
At Concord High School in Mount Diablo Unified School District, 14-year-old student Jacqueline Tamayo chose to keep the mask on, at least temporarily.
“I’m still a little worried about another outbreak,” he said. “I think we need to respect people’s health needs, so before class, I ask teachers if they feel comfortable with us wearing masks or not.
Things are quite different at Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, where physics and astronomy professor John Brazelton said only about 15 percent of his students wore face caps on Monday.
Brazelton, a cancer survivor most at risk for serious illness or death from COVID-19, is still masked. He is concerned about future waves of COVID-19 and the long-term effects of the virus, which leave some patients with the whole life of medical problems.
“Dealing with COVID is like fighting a gorilla,” he said. “You can’t stop when you’re tired. You can stop when the gorilla is tired.”
Redwood Middle School sixth-grade teacher Amelia Brown said she would also continue to wear a mask at school. The last time the the mandate of the mask has been lifted, the state has experienced an increase in cases, Brown said. He intends to wait two to four weeks to make sure the cases remain low before the mask is removed.
Brown witnessed one student case pushing another to remove the mask on Monday. She tried to counter this by explaining to students that they should follow their parents’ instructions on whether to wear a mask.
Brown liked to see the faces of the students who chose not to mask themselves. “It was fun to see everyone’s faces. I enjoyed it,” he said. “When I learned that (the warrant) would be lifted, I explained to him that I would continue to wear my mask.”
She said about two-thirds of Napa school students continued to wear masks on Monday. Latino students, who make up 66 percent of the student population, continue to be overwhelmingly masked, he said.
Even some students from more conservative parts of the state were afraid to take off their masks on Monday. Alexis Tinnin, a freshman from Frontier High School in Bakersfield, plans to continue wearing her mask at school to stay safe and healthy, especially as she is an athlete preparing for athletics season. She said she was concerned that the lifting of mandates could lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases. Current rates cause concern.
“I feel like it’s not safe yet,” he said.
She said she hopes most students at her school will take the opportunity to go without masks now that it is not necessary.
Heidi Zaurbekova, a sophomore at Frontier High, will keep her mask on to protect her sister, who is disabled.
“We still have so many students in the classrooms, and it could easily spread,” he said.
On Monday morning, most students at Frontier High School in northwest Bakersfield had their faces uncovered, although some had masks on hand as they approached classrooms.
The scene looked very different at another high school on the other side of Bakersfield. Most students at Mira Monte High School in southeast Bakersfield wore masks as they got out of their cars on campus.
Communities on opposite sides of the city have experienced roughly the same rates of COVID-19 in the past two years: about 30% of residents reported positive cases, according to Kern County public health data. However, communities have been affected by COVID-19 in different ways.
Latino families living in the neighborhoods surrounding Mira Monte High School were more likely to be severely affected. previous, deadliest waves of COVID-19 in 2020 compared to those in the affluent Northwest Bakersfield community where Frontier High School is located.
The student population of Mira Monte is 90% Latino compared to the population of Frontier, which is 50% white and 35% Latin.
Mira Monte’s second-year student, Carolina Mejía, was visibly excited to be able to take off her mask, which she said caused her skin to break and make it difficult for her to breathe.
Romero Carranza, a senior at Mira Monte, said he would keep his mask on hand for areas of the campus where it is crowded with students, such as the queue for lunch. However, she said that many of the classes she is in are quite empty, so she does not plan to take her there. Either way, he said it’s important to respect those who wear masks.
“If they use it, they want to protect themselves more or maybe there’s someone in their family they want to protect,” Carranza said.
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