SAN DIEGO — Top state health officials offered an about-face Tuesday when it comes to mandatory mask-wearing in the classroom for California students.
While that remains the guidance offered by the state's Department of Public Health, state leaders now say they will leave it up to individual school districts to decide how to enforce mask mandates once students return to the classroom.
For our county's largest district, San Diego Unified, they have made it clear what their stance is.
"What parents need to know is that in the fall, everybody will be wearing a mask indoors," said SDUSD Board president Richard Barrera.
Barrera said that while schools will work with the families of students who have a medical exemption, for the vast majority of K-12 students in the district, masks inside the classroom will be required, although social distancing rules will be relaxed.
"I think most parents just want to know that it's going to be safe," Barrera told News 8. "And so the mask requirement has been something that has kept students and adults safe on school campuses."
On their websites, San Ysidro School District and Sweetwater School District also made it clear they plan to align with the guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health.
While students ages 12 and up currently have the option to get vaccinated, at this point, that's not an option for kids 11 and younger.
"I just feel like smaller kids are more prone to germs and touching," said mother Brisa Arriaga.
She sees it as the right thing to do, especially as we're seeing an uptick in COVID cases.
"I feel that it's fine, just to keep our kids safe and everybody else safe," Arriaga added. "Just in case... until everything blows over."
It's a different story with some older kids.
"Since I'm all vaccinated and stuff and I don't have to wear a mask, so it will kind of feel weird wearing a mask," said 12-year-old Elio Laporta.
While it will be up to the school districts how to enforce California's guidelines, state leaders have said that schools will have to provide face coverings for students who accidentally forget theirs, or offer alternative educational opportunities for students excluded from campus because they refuse to wear one.
"What we want to do is work with you," said Barrera. "If you have reasons as a parent that you are concerned about wearing masks, we will work with you."
State leaders say that they will review these guidelines and possibly adjust them by November 1, depending on COVID case numbers and vaccination rates.
For more on the state's current guidance in K-12 schools, including exemptions, click here.
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